Hard candy

Un pari risqué en matière de biologie de synthèse

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas apparaît comme la ville idéale pour le lancement d’un coup de poker commercial à haut risque, susceptible par ailleurs d’anéantir le mode de vie de plusieurs millions de petits exploitants agricoles. Ce mois-ci, le conglomérat alimentaire international Cargill a choisi la célèbre zone du Las Vegas Strip pour présenter ce que l’entreprise espère voir devenir son prochain produit à succès, à savoir EverSweet, un édulcorant élaboré à partir des « mêmes composants sucrants que la plante stévia ».

Or, bien que Cargill fasse largement référence à la stévia dans ses supports promotionnels, EverSweet ne contient pas la moindre feuille de cette plante. Le nouveau produit de Cargill est un parfait exemple de biologie de synthèse, une forme d’ingénierie génétique qui recourt à des organismes modifiés pour élaborer des composants que l’on ne retrouve nulle part dans la nature. EverSweet ne doit nullement son goût sucré à la stévia, mais à un composant produit par une levure issue de la bioingénierie.

Domaine hautement technologique, la biologie de synthèse soulève pour autant d’importants risques potentiels. Mobilisant certes plusieurs milliards de dollars d’investissements, elle suscite aujourd’hui une inquiétude croissante à travers le monde. Aspect révélateur, Cargill ne fait pas la promotion de son produit autour de l’utilisation d’une technologie controversée, mais en décrivant davantage EverSweet comme le fruit d’une « levure boulangère spécifiquement élaborée de manière artisanale », comme si cette recette existait depuis des siècles au fin fond des villages de Bavière.

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