Hard candy

Waarom niet op synthetische biologie te wedden

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas lijkt een toepasselijke plek om een riskante zakelijke gok te lanceren die de levens van miljoenen kleine boeren zou kunnen vernietigen. Eerder deze maand koos het internationale voedselconglomeraat Cargill de beroemde Strip van de stad uit om te introduceren wat het hoopt dat zijn volgende kassucces zal zijn: EverSweet, een zoetstof gemaakt van ‘dezelfde zoete bestanddelen als in de Steviaplant.’

En ondanks dat Cargill in zijn reclamemateriaal zwaar leunt op Stevia bevat Eversweet toch nog geen blaadje van de plant. Het nieuwe product van Cargill is een voorbeeld van synthetische biologie, een vorm van genetische modificatie die aangepaste organismen gebruikt om stoffen te produceren die op natuurlijke wijze nooit geproduceerd zouden kunnen worden. Het is geen Stevia dat EverSweet zoet doet smaken; het is een stof geproduceerd door een biologisch gemodificeerde gist.

Synthetische biologie is hightech, en is potentieel ook hoogst riskant. Zelfs nu het miljarden dollars aan investeringen aantrekt is het onderwerp van groeiende internationale zorg. Het zegt veel dat Cargill niet met zijn controversiële gebruik van de technologie adverteert; in plaats daarvan beschrijft het bedrijf EverSweet als product van ‘speciaal ontwikkeld bakkersgist,’ alsof het een recept is dat al eeuwen in Beierse dorpen wordt gebrouwen.

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