Hard candy

Una pericolosa scommessa sulla biologia di sintesi

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas sembra il luogo adatto per lanciare un’azzardata scommessa aziendale che rischia di distruggere la vita di milioni di piccoli agricoltori. All’inizio di questo mese, la multinazionale del settore alimentare Cargill ha scelto la Strip, famosa via della città americana, per presentare quello che spera possa diventare il suo prossimo successo commerciale: EverSweet, un dolcificante realizzato con “gli stessi componenti dolci presenti nella stevia”.

Malgrado il materiale promozionale faccia esplicita allusione alla stevia, però, EverSweet non contiene neanche una foglia di questa pianta. Il nuovo prodotto della multinazionale è un esempio di biologia di sintesi, un tipo di ingegneria genetica che utilizza organismi modificati per produrre composti che altrimenti non si potrebbero creare in modo naturale. Ciò che conferisce il sapore dolce a EverSweet non è la stevia, bensì un composto derivato da un lievito bioingegnerizzato.

La biologia di sintesi è altamente tecnologica, ma potenzialmente anche ad alto rischio. Infatti, sebbene attragga investimenti per miliardi di dollari, è oggetto di crescente preoccupazione da parte della comunità internazionale. Significativo è il fatto che Cargill non pubblicizzi il proprio utilizzo di una tecnologia controversa, bensì descriva EverSweet come il prodotto di “un lievito di birra speciale”, come se si trattasse di una ricetta che si tramanda da secoli nei villaggi della Bavaria.

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