Germinating oilseeds break down fatty acids through peroxisomal beta-oxidation and convert the carbon into soluble carbohydrates through the glyoxylate cycle and gluconeogenesis. This interconversion is unique among higher eukaryotes. Using a combination of forward and reverse genetic screens, we have isolated mutants that compromise fatty acid breakdown at each step. These mutants exhibit characteristic, yet nonidentical, seedling establishment phenotypes that can be rescued by the provision of an alternative carbon source. In addition, we have recently shown that Arabidopsis seed's lipid breakdown occurs in two distinct tissues, the embryo and endosperm. The utilization of endospermic lipid reserves requires gluconeogenesis and transport of the resulting sugars to the germinating embryo. We discuss the potential of the Arabidopsis endosperm tissue as a simplified model system for the study of germination and lipid breakdown in germinating oilseeds.