Hard candy

Una mala apuesta en biología sintética

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas parece un lugar apropiado para lanzar una apuesta empresarial arriesgada que podría destruir los medios de subsistencia de millones de pequeños agricultores. En este mes, el conglomerado alimentario Cargill eligió el famoso Strip de esa ciudad para presentar su próximo producto, EverSweet, un edulcorante hecho de “los mismos componentes dulces de la planta estevia”, que, según espera, será un bombazo.

Y, sin embargo, pese a que Cargill ha basado abrumadoramente su campaña de promoción en la estevia, EverSweet no contiene una sola hoja de esa planta. El nuevo producto de Cargill es un ejemplo de biología sintética, una forma de ingeniería genética que utiliza organismos modificados para fabricar compuestos que nunca se producirían de forma natural. Lo que da el gusto dulce a EverSweet no es la estevia, sino un compuesto producido por una levadura creada mediante ingeniería biológica.

La biología sintética es una tecnología muy avanzada, pero también es potencialmente muy arriesgada. Justo cuando está atrayendo miles de millones de dólares en inversiones, es objeto de una preocupación internacional en aumento. Resulta revelador que Cargill no anuncie su utilización de una tecnología polémica; en cambio, esa empresa califica EverSweet de producto de una “levadura de panadero de elaboración especial”, como si fuera una receta preparada durante siglos en aldeas bávaras.

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