Could GMO microbes provide new source of ‘natural’ vanilla?

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Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr

World production of natural vanilla is tiny and has been falling in recent years… With demand on the upswing, trade in the coveted flavor is out of balance.

. . . .

The biotechnology firm Evolva developed a process to …[feed] glucose to a genetically modified microbe that produces vanillin glucoside. The [glucoside]… must be removed to get vanillin.

It is not yet clear whether vanillin made from genetically modified organisms will be adopted or marketed. Because the microbe that expresses Evolva’s vanillin is considered a processing aid, a product made with the flavor would not fall under U.S. GMO labeling requirements and could lend itself to no-artificial-ingredient claims…

. . . .

In 2014, [plant scientist Birger Møller]  discovered that specific plant cells in… green vanilla beans enzymatically transform free ferulic acid into vanillin glucoside… The cells express a gene that codes for the active enzyme—vanillin synthase. Møller was able to use variations of the gene to produce vanillin… in a modified strain of yeast and in modified tobacco and barley plants.

The insight could be used by plant geneticists to… develop transgenic plants with high vanillin synthase activity. Another option would be to engineer yeast to make vanillin…

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: The problem with vanilla

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