Oils and fats of vegetable and animal origin have been the most important renewable feedstock of the chemical industry in the past and in the present. A tremendous geographical and feedstock shift of oleochemical production has taken place from North America and Europe to southeast Asia and from tallow to palm oil. It will be important to introduce and to cultivate more and new oil plants containing fatty acids with interesting and desired properties for chemical utilization while simultaneously increasing the agricultural biodiversity. The problem of the industrial utilization of food plant oils has become more urgent with the development of the global biodiesel production. The remarkable advances made during the last decade in organic synthesis, catalysis, and biotechnology using plant oils and the basic oleochemicals derived from them will be reported, including, for example, ω-functionalization of fatty acids containing internal double bonds, application of the olefin metathesis reaction, and de novo synthesis of fatty acids from abundantly available renewable carbon sources.
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