Arabidopsis functional genomics resources now make the isolation of knockout mutants in any gene of choice both realistic and increasingly straightforward. Coupled with the completion of the genome sequence, this reverse genetics approach provides a platform facilitating dramatic progress in our understanding of fundamental aspects of plant metabolism. Recent experience shows that knockouts of genes encoding enzymes of primary metabolism can produce mutants with clear and sometimes unexpected phenotypes. They can provide new information about old pathways. Specific functions for individual members of multigene families can be revealed. Knockouts of enzymes of undefined function can lead to the discovery of those functions, and the analysis of enzymes which have previously never been studied at the biochemical level offers the potential to reveal new pathways of plant metabolism. Furthermore, the mutants isolated provide the starting point for genetic modification experiments to determine exactly how metabolism fuels growth and development, so providing a rational basis for the future modification of plant productivity.