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   Non-TechMetabolix [MBLX] a Full Disclosure Thread

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From: richardred1/5/2007 4:43:04 AM
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From: richardred3/19/2007 12:00:08 AM
   of 78
Metabolix awaits FDA approval, plans brand initiative

By Tony Deligio

Orlando, FL — Currently qualifying 50 applications with 30 different companies, biobased material supplier Metabolix (Cambridge, MA) is quickly ramping up for the opening of its Clinton, IA production facility in the third or fourth quarter 2008 (for an initial report on Metabolix, see March 16, 2006 e-Weekly). During presentations at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE; Brookfield, CT) Global Plastics Environmental Conference (GPEC; March 6-7, Orlando), Kristin Taylor, Metabolix business development manager, said that in addition to injection molding, cast sheet for thermoforming, and paper coating, Metabolix is working to commercialize PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) grades for blown, cast, and oriented films as well as foams. The plant, which is a joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland, will have an initial production capacity of 110 million lb, with room to expand four times beyond that.

Taylor said the company currently supplies development samples from a 15,000 lb/month pilot plant, with that line doubling to 30,000 lb/month in April. This time last year, the company was quoting a tentative price of $1.20/lb, but it’s now estimating $2 to $3/lb costs, given increases in the price of ethanol, which is introduced to the microbials that create the PHA, and the decision to run the plant on wind energy and the burning of biomass, promoting a greener footprint than the original coal-fired plans, if higher costs.

April will be a busy month for the company, with plans to release results of a third-party lifecycle analysis and the launch of a brand name and product logo, according to Taylor. As of now, the material meets U.S. (ASTM D64001) and European (EN 13432) composting standards, with Taylor saying it biodegrades faster than polylactic acid (PLA) in an anaerobic landfill environment. Metabolix expects to be granted food-contact approval in the fourth quarter of 2007. The company currently has 320 approved and 100 pending patents for the material, which was originally conceived 20 years ago at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Taylor says PHA is a natural polyester that isn’t as clear as PLA, but has a heat-deflection temperature above 100°C, which is key for hot beverage packaging and other applications. Currently, the material is manufactured by feeding microbes corn sugar, which prompts them to generate the polymer and store it as we store fat. By dry weight, 90% of the end product is PHA plastic, and the other 10% are microbes that are burned off to power production, along with corn stalks and other biomass. The eventual goal is to grow the plastic directly in switchgrass. Metabolix is already doing this in a greenhouse in Cambridge, but commercial-scale production of this type is still four to eight years out, according to Taylor, with this process promising to lower the material costs.

When two other papers fell through, Taylor filled her allotted slot and two more to a standing-room-only crowd at the Florida Conference Center. Due to the response, she was asked to offer the paper again later in the day, when a break had originally been scheduled, once again to an overflow crowd.—

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From: richardred4/7/2007 10:09:24 AM
   of 78
Design Trends: Sustainability
PLA bottle is used for a Noble cause

Demonstrating its fresh thinking, Blue Lake Citrus Products, LLC, Winter Haven, FL, has become the first company to offer all-natural and organic juice beverages in bottles made from NatureWorks(R) PLA polylactide resin, a biodegradable, compostable polymer derived from renewable resources. Explains Blue Lake president Wade J. Groetsch, the company selected the bio-based resin from NatureWorks LLC ( for the material's eco-friendly advantages. "We are always researching new ways to reduce packaging waste and energy in the production of packaging products such as our new bottle," he says.

Since last September, Blue Lake has offered its lines of Noble All Natural and Noble Organics premium juices in a clear, 32-oz PLA bottle molded by Consolidated Container Corp. ( using an existing, custom mold. Dubbed the "E bottle" by Blue Lake, the package provides a clarity comparable to the company's previous polyethylene terephthalate bottle, as well as a sufficient oxygen barrier for the products' 60-day shelf life. Noble juices are cold-packed, so PLA's lower melt index is not an issue during filling. "However, we do have to control the temperature of the transportation and warehousing of bottles," Groetsch relates.

Based on its 2006 sales, Blue Lake estimates that the switch to PLA will save the fossil-fuel equivalent of burning 114,000 gal of gasoline and will save greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to driving a car more than 2.7 million miles in the U.S

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To: richardred who wrote (24)4/19/2007 1:23:27 PM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
A Bio-Plastics Revival Makes Gains at Cargill [WSJ]
High Oil Prices Drive Interest in Soy, Corn;
Wal-Mart Wants In
April 19, 2007; Page A1

BLAIR, Neb. -- The huge Cargill Inc. biorefinery here turns 60 million bushels of corn a year into a torrent of sweeteners and ethanol.

Now the giant facility -- whose overhead pipes snake between 50-foot-tall tanks and metal buildings over a square mile -- is also cranking out what could be the next big thing in farming: a new generation of renewable chemicals.

Although most petroleum-based chemicals remain substantially cheaper, high oil prices have bolstered the economic rationale for making plastics, foam and lubricants from plants grown in the Midwest.

Soybeans and corn are showing up in carpets, disposable cups, salad bags, AstroTurf, candles, lipstick, socks, surfboards, cooling fluid in utility transformers, and even the body panels of Deere & Co. harvesting combines. There has also been growing demand from retail giants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., newly sensitive to environmental pressure, for packaging made from renewable plastic.

[Farm Belt Catalyst]
What's Happening: With oil prices so high, grain-processing giant Cargill and others are turning to corn and soybeans for chemicals.
The Problem: Although technology has improved since bio-plastics flopped in the 1980s, petro-plastics are still cheaper, and any success would tax food supplies.
What's Ahead: With a growing focus on bio-products, consumers could soon see 'vegetarian' car seats, sofas and surfboards.

Cargill, the closely held Minneapolis food ingredients giant, has visions of making billions of pounds of so-called renewable chemicals annually from corn and soybeans. "We have the will to take on the chemical companies on their own turf," says Yusuf Wazirzada, the manager of Cargill's soy-based urethane polyols business.

The diversion of yet more farm products toward the energy and industrial sectors could stretch demand and send commodity prices sky high. Other problems remain: For many manufacturers, adjusting equipment to use renewable chemicals made by Cargill and others is cost-prohibitive.

Still, the use of farm products to replace plastics and other goods is generating buzz in farm circles, where many players are eager to diversify beyond food and ethanol. At the same time, there appear to be market reasons for a move to corn-based chemicals, especially as a hedge against uncertainties in the oil market.

Hickory Springs Manufacturing Co. is replacing some of the petrochemicals it uses to manufacture polyurethane foam with a Cargill soybean compound.

The Hickory, N.C., foam maker turned to Cargill after its chemicals suppliers boosted prices about 50% in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "We now realize that in everyday life we have to not depend on petrochemicals," says Bobby W. Bush, a Hickory Springs vice president.
[A sofa stuffed with soy-foam]
A sofa stuffed with soy-foam

Retailer Crate & Barrel is beginning to sell a sofa stuffed with Hickory Springs' foam. The Lockport sofa, which is aimed at "green" consumers, has a prize location on its store floors.

Ford Motor Co., in Dearborn, Mich., is considering using soy-containing foam in car seats, armrests and headrests. Now that its scientists have figured out how to use ultraviolet light to eliminate a rancid odor from the foam, the auto maker's appetite for the crop could potentially reach hundreds of thousands of bushels annually.

Battelle, a nonprofit research organization based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of several outfits working on 100% crop-based polyurethane foam. This, potentially, could be a cheap enough alternative to the petro-based material to make a big difference to auto makers, which put 30 pounds of foam into each vehicle they make.

Scientists have long known how to make chemicals from plants. Before the oil age, manufacturers mined carbon and hydrogen in plants to produce all sorts of industrial products. Decades before soybean became a ubiquitous food, it was used to make glue and paint. Celluloid, an early plastic, came from cotton. The diesel engine first ran on vegetable oil.

By the mid-1930s, Henry Ford owned 12,000 acres of farmland with the idea of mass-producing car bodies with soybeans. World War II derailed that dream. In the 1980s, efforts to cash in on the environmental movement with corn-based biodegradable plastics flopped. The materials were costly, melted easily, let the fizz out of carbonated beverages and didn't biodegrade as promised.

Technological breakthroughs, however, are making a biochemicals renaissance possible. The biodegradable pitch has been dropped: The claim now is the ability to decompose harmlessly in a matter of months in an industrial composting operation. New chemistry, and the genetic modification of crop-eating micro-organisms to make industrial products, are driving down costs and increasing the range of bio-materials.

Although Cargill is hawking its corn-derived plastic as the first new plastic category since the 1970s, the fledgling product is but a tiny part of its business, and will be so for the foreseeable future. Yet the price of oil is high enough that more manufacturers see their dependence on petrochemicals as a liability.

America is beholden to fossil fuel for everything from computers and Barbie dolls to beer cups and diapers. About 10% of petroleum is used to make chemicals.

Renewable chemicals have many of the political attractions of renewable fuel. They reduce dependence on foreign oil, create jobs in the Farm Belt, and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions -- all without the government subsidies heaped upon ethanol.

At today's prices, a $3.25 bushel of corn can generate $15 worth of bio-plastic -- enough to supply a deli with a day's worth of take-out salad containers -- allowing for much greater profit margins than would come from turning the corn into food ingredients or livestock feed.

The economics of making chemicals from carbohydrates instead of hydrocarbons is also blurring boundaries between industries. Grain-processing companies are making chemicals and chemical companies are processing grain. "If I were Archer-Daniels-Midland or Cargill, I'd be looking at the same areas," says Charles O. Holliday Jr., chairman and CEO of DuPont Co., which is itself moving into crop-derived chemicals.

The Wilmington, Del., chemicals giant opened a plant in Loudon, Tenn., in November with British sugar giant Tate & Lyle PLC that makes a monomer -- a building block for plastics -- from corn. The monomer, produced by genetically modified yeast with an appetite for corn sugar, can be used to make everything from textile fiber to bottles.

Grain-processor ADM, long the nation's biggest ethanol producer, owns a 4% stake in Metabolix Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., firm that has genetically modified a corn-eating strain of E. coli bacteria to make a polymer, PHA. A joint venture of the companies is building a facility near Clinton, Iowa, with the capacity to make 110 million pounds of PHA annually from ADM corn.

While the fledgling biochemicals market is meager, some adherents figure it could be a $150 billion industry if optimistic projections -- that they will replace 10% of the petroleum used to make chemicals globally by 2020 -- pan out. Today, less than 2% of U.S. chemicals come from crops. "Clearly, momentum is building," says Bhima R. Vijayendran, a chemist working on making polymers from crops at Battelle.

Crop supply remains a concern. The oil industry is so large that getting even a small slice of its business could consume a big share of U.S. crops. It's a lesson learned from the ethanol industry, which is using 20% of last year's corn harvest to produce ethanol equal to about 3% of the U.S. gasoline supply. The ethanol industry's appetite for corn has inflated the price of the nation's largest crop by roughly 50% over the past 12 months.

Recently, furniture makers, as well as auto parts rivals Lear Corp. and Johnson Controls Inc., have touted their ability to make environmentally friendly products with soybeans. To make soy-foam attractive, though, scientists are trying to make it as springy as its petro-based alternative.

This is not the first time that agriculture has looked for a better living through chemistry. In the 1930s, with the farm sector sinking under the weight of commodity gluts, intellectuals and business leaders saw a solution in new uses for surplus crops.

The "chemurgy" movement drew Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and William J. Hale, a major Dow Chemical shareholder. Research was funded with income from German chemical patents that had been seized by the U.S. government as reparations for World War I. Gas stations began carrying ethanol and the movement made it onto the big screen in the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life." George Bailey's friend Sam decides there is a fortune to be made from soy-plastic.

But the Roosevelt administration chose to tackle the farm problem by intervening in the market -- a policy that lives on today in federal subsidy checks. Oil discoveries and chemistry advances made synthetic products ever cheaper and stronger.

The closely held nature of Cargill -- which generated fiscal 2006 revenue of $75.2 billion -- has allowed it to nurture the idea of renewable chemicals. Free from the quarterly demands of Wall Street, the commodity-processing giant is able to invest in agriculture without buffeting from impatient shareholders.

Cargill was spending heavily to develop corn-derived plastic more than a decade ago, but its customers were mostly Asian manufacturers experimenting with the material. Although the company is tight-lipped about the current size of its renewable chemicals businesses, it likely won't be more than a blip on its income statement for several years.

"This is the emerging business opportunity of this company," says K. Scott Portnoy, Cargill's corporate vice president. "This is all part of diversifying and spreading our bets."

Cargill feeds the sugar it makes from corn to micro-organisms that convert it into lactic acid, the building block for polylactide, which can mimic many of the properties of polystyrene and polyethylene, two of the most common disposable plastics.
[James Stoppert]

By 1997, Cargill had lowered the cost of making polylactide, or PLA, enough to persuade then-Dow Chemical Co. executive James Stoppert to bring Dow into a joint venture. Dow managers figured they could improve Cargill's processing methods and find plenty of customers.

After years of financially draining work, Dow Chemical's enthusiasm for corn plastic evaporated and it sold its stake in the venture to Cargill in January 2005. Cargill's corn-plastic was still more expensive than competing synthetic plastics, and couldn't handle the temperatures withstood by petro-plastics. "PLA is an inferior product with a cost problem," says William F. Banholzer, Dow Chemical chief technology officer.

Several Dow Chemical managers, however, stayed on with Cargill, whose $1 billion complex in Blair employs 530 people and is the world's biggest maker of renewable plastics. Mr. Stoppert, now senior director of Cargill's Industrial Bio-Products division, envisions 20 bio-refineries across the Midwest someday. "I have the opportunity to be a pioneer," he says.

The stamina of Mr. Stoppert and other former Dow Chemical managers is beginning to pay off. Swelling oil prices are lifting the cost of some synthetic plastics closer to that of PLA. A green campaign by Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, is fueling demand for packaging made from renewable plastic. Some California cities are banning Styrofoam containers for take-out food.

Cargill won't disclose income figures for its bio-plastics business, but annual sales have doubled every year since Dow dropped out of the joint venture, and volume is now nearly 150 million pounds.

"What ethanol is doing to the gasoline market, PLA is doing for the packaging business," says Joe Selzer, vice president of marketing and sales at Wilkinson Industries Inc., a small maker of plastic food containers in Fort Calhoun, Neb., just 10 miles down the road from Cargill's biorefinery.

A small player in the U.S. packaging industry, with annual sales of about $75 million, Wilkinson's managers were looking to diversify when they read a story in the local newspaper about corn plastic. As part of a deal to be acquired by a Chicago private investment group, Mid Oaks Investments LLC, Wilkinson was able to raise $1.5 million for modifying part of its factory to use PLA.

Now, Wal-Mart's embrace of PLA is fueling a stampede to Wilkinson's door. Produce firms, anxious to keep their place on Wal-Mart grocery shelves, are placing so many orders for corn-plastic food containers that Wilkinson has hired 50 workers, increasing its payroll to 325 people.

PLA is also becoming a factor in the coffee business. Some small coffee retailers are swearing off disposable coffee cups of the sort used by Starbucks Corp. and McDonald's Corp. Roughly 15 billion of the disposable coffee cups used annually in the U.S. have a moisture barrier made from petrochemicals.

International Paper Co., of Memphis, Tenn., is using Cargill's plastic to make an eco-friendly paper hot cup for small coffee retailers such as Vermont's Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. Solo Cup Co. is testing a PLA-lined hot cup that its executives want to launch this year.

Coca-Cola Co., too, is investigating whether Cargill's plastic could be composted on a large scale, thus cutting the garbage-hauling costs of food-service customers. In an experiment, the company used a film made of PLA to decorate its Coke bottles in Mexico last year with a Christmas scene.

"We've got a lot to learn," says Scott Vitters, director of sustainable packaging at the Atlanta beverage giant. "But this field finally has a lot of potential."

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To: Sam Citron who wrote (28)4/20/2007 12:12:34 PM
From: richardred
   of 78
Had the pleasure of meeting very recently with both a salesmen, and chief engineer from one of our plastic suppliers (klockner).
Posed a question about the recyclability issues of plastic packaging. The salesmen to no surprise to me, became quite defensive. The engineer after the meeting became quite open to me, and said it was a top corporate priority on his table. Developing and producing non petroleum based products.

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To: richardred who wrote (29)4/20/2007 12:38:48 PM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
Yes, the idea seems to be gaining traction. CNBC even had a report this morning with a Mattel executive discussing the possibility of a recyclable Barbie (he was worried about a toy decomposing in the sandbox in the rain). Maybe it's the news cycle with Earth Day this Sunday.

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From: Sam Citron4/23/2007 11:20:29 AM
   of 78
Greener Shopping Bags? [Technology Review]
Consumers may find that the virtues of biodegradable plastics are really a mixed bag.
By Peter Fairley

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors' vote last month to institute the first ban on polyethylene shopping bags in the United States may reduce the volume of plastic in landfills, but, despite many advocates' hopes, it is unlikely to dramatically reduce dependence on imported oil. That's because most biodegradable plastic bags (which San Francisco officials hope will take polyethylene's place) rely on a petroleum-based form of polyester.

San Francisco's ban will, however, create an important new market for biodegradable plastics that could bring plastics based on renewable feedstocks into the market. The best hope may be Metabolix, based in Cambridge, MA, which last year completed a $95 million initial public offering and signed a joint venture with agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to develop its corn sugar-based biodegradable polymer.

Standard polyethylene bags have multiplied (San Franciscans alone use 181 million a year) because they are cheap and easy to use. They also produce less pollution in their manufacture than paper bags do. Until recently, biodegradable plastic bags have cost at least three times more and fallen short on performance, but the picture has changed over the past decade. "Today you've got some products that work from a functionality standpoint--the price gap has come way down," says Keith Edwards, biopolymers business manager in North America for German plastics and chemicals giant BASF.

Most biodegradable plastic bags are produced by blending plant starch with petroleum-based polyesters, which improves the bag's strength and processibility with conventional film equipment. Leading producers are BASF and Italian polymers firm Novamont. Edwards estimates that biodegradable bags from these polymers could cost three to four cents more than the one-to-two-cents-per-bag cost of polyethylene. But he's betting that San Francisco consumers will demand them thanks to San Francisco's curbside organic-waste recycling program.

San Francisco's environmental officials are making the same bet. Currently, the program collects about 300 tons of food per day, contributing to a 67 percent recycling rate for its municipal waste overall. But that number must rise significantly if the city is to meet a self-imposed goal to recycle 75 percent of its waste by 2010.

BASF recently boosted capacity for its biodegradable resin from 8,000 metric tons to 14,000 metric tons per year. Overall, the company expects annual production of biodegradable and bio-based polymers to triple or quadruple by 2010 from an estimated 50,000 tons produced worldwide in 2005. Meanwhile, Novamont plans to scale up a process for producing its biodegradable form of polyester from vegetable oils; it could begin within the next two years.

Metabolix expects that the first dedicated production plant for its polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymer will begin generating up to 110 million pounds of the natural polyester per year next year. The plant, which ADM is building adjacent to its Clinton, IA, corn wet mill, uses corn sugar to feed fermentation vessels filled with bacteria that have been genetically engineered by Metabolix to produce the polymer. Corn stocks will be burned to power the process. "We'll reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by about two-thirds and petroleum usage by about 80 percent compared to traditional petroleum-based plastics," says Metabolix vice president Brian Igoe.

Igoe says PHA will break down without the high temperatures found in industrial composting facilities. That means that bags or other products made from Metabolix's polymers will degrade if they drift into wetlands or the ocean. "We're not saying that our products are environmentally disposable--nobody would encourage that solution--but the reality is that we have very leaky collection systems," Igoe says. He adds that those environmental benefits are central to Metabolix's marketing plan because Metabolix's polymer will cost three times as much as petroleum-based polymers.

But in many applications, including PHA-based bags that Igoe says could hit the market by the end of this year, the user will be willing to pay a premium. He thinks that many consumers are ready to do so--especially if they get to keep the convenience of plastic they've grown accustomed to. "Plastic bags are very functional," says Igoe. "If you have a bag that has the environmental benefits we have, you're going to see a lot more usage. There's definitely a group of people out there willing to pay for cleaner and greener solutions."

Ironically, just as biodegradable plastics are matching the performance of conventional plastics and finding willing markets, the success of biofuels is creating a new challenge: a rapidly rising demand for corn sugar. The use of corn sugar to produce ethanol has boosted food prices, doubling, for example, the price of tortillas in Mexico and sparking street protests. (See "Ethanol Demand Threatens Food Prices.") Manufacturers of food-based plastics such as Metabolix could see their costs rise too. They might have to price the petroleum-free bag beyond what even San Francisco's green buyers will pay.

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From: richardred4/24/2007 12:43:02 AM
   of 78
Metabolix and ADM Collaborate on Plastic
Monday April 23, 12:04 pm ET
Metabolix and ADM to Jointly Produce a Family of Biobased and Biodegradable Plastics

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Plastics, fuels and chemicals maker Metabolix Inc. and agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland Co. said Monday they will jointly produce a family of plastics that are crop-based, sustainable and biodegradable.

Mirel Natural Plastics, which are made from renewable resources such as corn sugar, will be commercialized through the two companies' joint venture, Telles. Telles' first commercial-scale plant in Clinton, Iowa is expected to start up in 2008 and produce Mirel at an annual rate of 110 million pounds.

The companies said the crop-based plastics are an alternative to petroleum-based plastics and will help reduce reliance on oil.

On Friday, the companies released an online survey showing 72 percent of respondents do not know that most plastic is made from petroleum products, primarily oil.

The survey, which was conducted by national online market research firm InsightExpress for Telles, also showed that 40 percent of respondents incorrectly believe that that petroleum-based plastic will biodegrade, or dissolve naturally in landfills and oceans.

Metabolix said it is currently working with more than 40 prospective customers on more than 60 applications for Mirel, including consumer products, packaging, single-use disposables, and products used in agriculture and erosion control.

Metabolix shares surged $2.86, or 15.9 percent, to $20.85 in morning trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Shares of Metabolix, which went public in November 2006, have since traded between $14.09 and $21.18.

Shares of ADM, which is based in Decatur, Ill., rose 37 cents to $38.92 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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To: richardred who wrote (32)4/27/2007 1:30:18 PM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
Sold all my MBLX today. Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.

It was a hypy week that began Monday with the Press release you cited that simply named a long existing partnership and product but that played well to a public that "[did] not know that most plastic is made from petroleum products" and ended Friday with an appearance by the CEO on CNBC that also said nothing new to anyone who had read the prospectus. It felt very much like classic pre-lockup expiration hype.

It was a lovely ride.


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From: Glenn Petersen4/28/2007 12:56:41 PM
   of 78
The Greening Of Metabolix

By Gene G. Marcial
Business Week

May 7, 2007

Metabolix (MBLX ), a little-known company that uses bioengineered microorganisms to ferment sugar in the making of biodegradable plastic and chemicals, streaked from 17 on Apr. 20, to 24.92 on Apr. 25. Pamela Bassett of Cantor Fitzgerald wasn't surprised. She recommended the stock on Dec. 21, 2006, at 18, and sees it hitting 40 in 12 months. On Apr. 23, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM ), which owns about 6%, announced a joint venture with Metabolix to produce high-performance, all-natural plastics. "It is the only bioplastic that can be biodegraded at sea, soil, or sewer without industrial composting or incineration," says Bassett. The plastic can be used for grocery bags and other types of containers, with high strength and durability, she adds. Bassett expects "great demand" for natural plastics. The joint venture will mean expanding the capacity of a plant now under construction on ADM's campus in Clinton, Iowa, to four times its planned 110 million pounds per year. Laurence Alexander of securities firm Jefferies Group (JEF ), with a buy rating, says Metabolix, which will also use other plants to produce plastic and bioenergy feedstocks, is a pure play in "green" plastics. He figures its partnership with Archer Daniels "significantly reduces" the risks.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

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