There are attempts to genetically modify plants for industrial use. For example, the paper and animal feed industries are genetically modifying trees and other plants to contain low levels of lignin, a substance that strengthens plant cell walls. This makes the plants easier and cheaper to process. But what's good for industry often isn't good for ecosystems. Lignin makes plants resistant to pests, diseases, and harsh weather conditions. So the genetic engineers are actually building weakness into the plant gene pool, with potentially harmful consequences.
Added to these risks are those arising from the genetic manipulation of crops. While the first type of risk is common to all food crops bred for industrial use, the second type of risk can be avoided by developing non-GM plants for industrial use.
The first GM plant for industrial use to be commercialized in the European Union was the Amflora potato, which is genetically engineered to produce a high level of amylopectin (it was subsequently withdrawn). But high amylopectin potatoes are also being developed without GM.
Natural rubber from dandelions (June 2015)
Dandelions are modest plants that are an excellent alternative source for a raw material of high demand: natural rubber, the fundamental ingredient in rubber products. Researchers have established the basis for the large-scale production of high quality rubber with Russian dandelion.
Ground-durable and drought-tolerant eucalyptus trees (June 2022)
The NZ Dryland Forests Initiative is using conventional breeding to develop eucalyptus trees that are ground-durable (resistant to rotting or being eaten by insects when it is in the ground, such as in fencing, house timbers and decking) and drought-tolerant. In June 2022 the project manager confirmed to a member of the public that they are not using GM.
German potato breeder launches non-GM high amylopectin potatoes (September 2009)
Starch from these potatoes contains a substance called amylopectin that will be used in food, paper, adhesives, textiles and building applications.