Pyrethrins, the most economically important natural insecticide, comprise a group of six closely related monoterpene esters. The industrial production is based on their extraction from Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium (Pyrethrum) capitula. The world production of natural pyrethrins still falls short of global market demand stimulating the research in in vitro production as an alternative to conventional cultivation methods. The different biotechnological alternatives such as callus cultures, shoot and root cultures, plant cell suspension cultures, and bioconversion of precursors by means of enzymatic synthesis or genetically engineered microorganisms, as well as the progress achieved in methods for the identification and quantitation of insecticidal compounds have been reviewed. Although technology for plant cell culture exists, industrial applications have, to date, been limited due to both the low economical viability and technological feasibility at large scale. Bioconversion of readily available precursors looks more attractive, but more research is needed before this technology is used for the industrial production of pyrethrins.
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