Critics decry synbio vanillin for its perceived impact on poor farmers

On its journey from the fields in Madagascar to your ice cream, sponge cake and chocolate, the vanilla plant is subjected to an intense process: it’s cured, dried and sometimes even oxidised.

Given the lengthy nature of vanilla production – it can take several weeks to go from plant to product – the majority of producers turn to synthetic alternatives (vanillin). Synthetic vanillins are generally produced using petrochemicals or wood pulp, and some in the industry consider them to be harmful to the environment. One such organisation is Swiss company Evolva, which has developed a way to brew vanillin from yeast – deemed a more sustainable source.

“We’re not sure why anybody who cares about sustainability and environmental progress would prefer that the food industry simply continues to source their [artificial vanillin] from chemical companies and paper mills,” says Stephan Herrera, the company’s vice president.

Using synthetic biology (synbio), scientists at Evolva edit the DNA of yeast, and through a fermentation process, force it to sythensise vanillin.

Related article:  How European-Based NGOs Block Crop Biotechnology Adoption In Africa

In the case of vanillin though, synbio has courted media coverage and criticism. The environmental organisation Friends of the Earth (FoE) has urged the public to say no to synbio vanillin, referring to it as an “extreme form” of genetic engineering.

Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner at FoE says that the potential impact of synbio technology won’t just be felt by consumers, but also by rural communities and smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on traditional vanilla production.

According to Herrera, because Evolva is targeting the 99% of vanillin that is produced synthetically, its operations shouldn’t affect rural farmers.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Creators defend vanilla flavour made using synthetic biology

 

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend