WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers have genetically engineered one of the most common bacteria on the planet E. coli to digest simple sugars from plant waste and turn it into valuable biofuel. They said their study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is the first demonstration of a one-step conversion of a renewable nonfood plant to fuel. The technology could lead to low-cost, low-carbon, high-performance renewable fuels, researcher Stephen del Cardayre said in a telephone interview. We looked at the ideal feedstock, which is biomass, and then looked at the product we wanted to make, which is diesel, then we engineered this E.coli to contain the genes that catalyzed all of the chemical reactions required to convert that feedstock into that fuel, del Cardayre said. Its a one-step process, so theres no need to have to do two or three buckets of chemistry, he said. You put in your feedstock, the bug converts it to fuel, which is an oil that you can just scrape off the top. Del Cardayre of privately held industrial biotechnology firm LS9 worked in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The work represents the next step forward in biofuel technology developed by the South San Francisco-based company.