Dr. Katrina Cornish developed a genetically engineered dandelion to produce natural latex — which is primarily imported from Southeast Asia — in vertical indoor farms in the U.S. As the scientific adviser to American Sustainable Rubber Company, Dr. Cornish is working to commercialize T.K. Dandelion rubber for the sporting goods, medical supplies, and tire industries. She speaks with Earth911 about the potential to displace $1.6 billion in rubber import costs and the improved materials security associated with diversifying natural rubber production beyond the current monoculture-based tapping of rubber trees.
Dr. Cornish shares the threats associated with current rubber plantation farming, which is susceptible to blights and droughts because all rubber trees are clones of a few specimens spirited out of Brazil almost a century ago. Rubber is naturally produced by more than 2,600 plants. And Cornish has labs dedicated to commercializing two important North American sources, T.K. Dandelions, and guayule, a shrub native to Mexico. American Sustainable Rubber is preparing a 190-acre indoor farm to perfect its production of rubber from dandelions. Learn about the rich range of sources humans have for replacing environmentally unsustainable materials, such as rubber.