Biotech companies adopting new vocabulary to escape anti-GMO stigma

| | November 6, 2015
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Here are some words guaranteed to draw exasperated sighs among synthetic biologist: Food Babe. Greenpeace. Friends of the Earth. These are megaphone-wielding critics of genetically modified organisms. “They really have an agenda,” said a synthetic biology company rep, her eyes widening with concern, at Consumer Bio, an invite-only forum for venture capitalists and applied biology companies in San Francisco this week. Food Babe was most certainly not invited, but the anti-GMO message she’s perfected was the subtext of many conversations.

At Consumer Bio, companies both big and small dreamed about the potential of genetically engineering microbes to make food, perfumes, and new materials like lab-spun spider silk. The small companies included start-ups like the event’s sponsor, Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based outfit that make flavors and fragrances with yeast. But the big players were there, too–Colgate, General Mills, L’Oreal. And most of them agreed that their biggest problem isn’t science. It’s branding.

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Everyone there was afraid of “GMOs”—not the idea, but the word. “A big struggle everyone here has is how to do you talk about your product without calling it a genetically modified organism,” says Mark Bünger of the market research firm Lux Research. In a world where “is Monsanto” autocompletes to “evil” and “satan,” you want to stay far far away. But how do you tout the benefits of a technology when the well is already so poisoned?

Read full, original post: Biotech’s new plan: Nobody say ‘GMO’

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