SUBSCRIBE

Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North AmericaEU edition | APAC edition

Trends > The GM debate

Synbio ingredients have vast market penetration, new list shows

By Hank Schultz

17-Mar-2017
Last updated on 17-Mar-2017 at 17:12 GMT2017-03-17T17:12:30Z

Jim Thomas of ECT Group talks with Hank Schultz of NutraIngredients-USA at the Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA. NIU-USA photo.

Jim Thomas of ECT Group talks with Hank Schultz of NutraIngredients-USA at the Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA. NIU-USA photo.

Synthetic biology, or GMO 2.0 as some are calling it, has vastly more penetration in the marketplace than was previously believed. That’s the takeaway from the assembly of the first list of such ingredients.

Jim Thomas is program director at the ETC Group, a non-profit organization based in Canada that tracks the effect of emerging technologies. The group has put together a database showing where ingredients produced via fermentation using modified organisms are turning up in the market.  In the past the group has looked at a couple of well-publicized cases, such as the production of vanillin from modified organisms.  In an interview at the Expo West trade show recently in Anaheim, CA, Thomas told NutraIngredients-USA that the full list was an eye-opener, in that substances that arise from this technology can now be found everywhere.

“We were talking with natural products companies and others who were concerned because they didn’t want to inadvertently be including these ingredients in their foods. We thought there would be a handful, but what surprised us was how widely these new ingredients are getting into new product categories.  This is everything from cosmetics and cleaning products through to foods and flavors. Supplements obviously is a big area. We have now about 350 entries in the database and that’s just the beginning,” he said.

Vast potential market

Thomas said this technology, which is now gaining so much momentum, has flown mostly under the radar, at least as far as the labeling of these ingredients is concerned. The global market for these ingredients is expected to exceed $34 billion by 2020, he said.

The key point is that while the more familiar GM techniques are about modifying existing organisms, this new approach is really about the engineering of new life forms, Thomas said.

“Up to now genetic engineering has been something of an asrtisanal process. Synthetic biology is ‘real engineering according to the practitioners, Thomas said.

New forms of life

The underlying technology is a new, rapid and inexpensive printing technique that can spit out strings of DNA with specific amino acid sequences that can then be inserted into specific spots on a DNA strand in an algal or yeast cell, for example.  Rather than snipping DNA portions that pertain to certain traits from one organism and moving that to another, as in the more familiar genetic engineering, synthetic biology can create new traits from whole cloth, Thomas said.  The result, when incorporated into an algal or yeast DNA strand, gives rise to an entirely new organism that will secrete the things you are looking for, he said.

Undercutting botanical ingredients

At a meeting in Baltimore in 2015, Thomas used vanilla as a case study in how this technology is finding traction in the marketplace.  Artificial vanillin has been on the market for many years, and is labeled as such.  Consumers who value the flavor of natural vanilla can find it on labels and choose to pay for it. But a loophole in federal law allows vanillin (the active constituent of vanilla flavor) produced via synthetic biology to come to market under a ‘natural’ banner.  According to FDA, a natural flavor can arise from a long list of products and processes. At the end of that list there is included the following phrase: “or fermentation products thereof.  No one argues that fermented soy, for example, is not a natural flavor. But what if the fermenting organism didn’t come from nature, but came from a biotech lab?  Thomas said the new database, which was a challenge to develop because some in the field would prefer not to advertise where these ingredients are being employed, will help brand holders and consumers make that choice for themselves.

Related products

Baldor Specialty Food's efforts to cut food waste are adding money

Baldor Specialty Foods' efforts to cut food waste are adding money

As the issue of food waste rises in prominence in the US, industry players...

Organic industry asks for funds to expand production, oversight

Organic industry asks legislators for funds to expand domestic production & increase oversight

More than a hundred representatives for the organic industry descended on Capitol Hill in...

Standardized language for expiration dates will help reduce food waste

Standardized language for expiration dates should help reduce food waste, according to GMA

According to the nonprofit Feeding America, 126 billion pounds of food is wasted each...

Vox Pop: In sports nutrition, 'usually just protein'

Vox Pop: 'Protein, and that's pretty much it actually'

Sports nutrition is a booming industry, with Euromonitor estimating a value of $7.4bn in...

Food Starter helps entrepreneurs break into food and beverage industry

Food Starter helps entrepreneurs break into the competitive food and beverage industry

Launching a food business takes more than secret family recipe – it also takes...

Braskem packaging changes color if a product is unfit for consumption

Braskem packaging changes color if a product is unfit for consumption

Marcia Pires

polymer science researcher , Braskem

How to shift perception of GMOs from good vs evil to simply a choice

Could the biotech disclosure law help shift perception of GMOs from good vs evil to simply a choice?

In many ways, the conversation about GMOs has been a debate about good versus...

SmartLabel helps brands meet consumers’ mounting clean label demands

SmartLabel gains traction as a tool for brands to meet consumers’ mounting clean label demands

While SmartLabel is still in its relative infancy, manufacturers are flocking to the technology...

Potential for Nutrition Facts label delay should not slow compliance

The potential of a delay to Nutrition Facts label changes should not slow compliance efforts

Assuming FDA does not delay the deadline for the new Nutrition Fact label as...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: grain-free vs ancient grain trends

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Gluten free movement spawns divergent grain-free vs ancient grain trends

As the tenacious gluten-free trend continues to grow and mature into a market behemoth...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Agency enforcement and litigation targets

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: FDA & FTC move forward with enforcement even with some regulations in limbo

New regulations and draft guidances may be on hold at many federal agencies until...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Evolving views on breakfast

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Evolving views on breakfast create challenges, opportunities for CPGs

Breakfast has long been known as the most important meal of the day, but...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What snacks are hot and where consumers buy them

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What snacks are hot and where consumers are buying them is evolving

US consumers are snacking more than ever, according to IRI data, but an analyst...

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Confections hold steady in face of war on sugar

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Confections hold steady in face of the war on sugar

Despite significant headwinds generated by the escalating war on sugar and increasing consumer preferences...

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Driving ecommerce with omnichannel marketing

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Driving ecommerce sales with an omnichannel marketing approach

Sales of food and beverage online may be lagging significantly behind those of other...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Will Moringa steal kale's top superfood spot?

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Will Moringa knock kale out of the top superfood spot?

For years kale has reigned supreme as the go-to superfood for many Americans thanks...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Fair Trade certification tackles coconut supply

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Could Fair Trade certification help avoid a coconut shortage?

Ever since coconut water burst on to the US market several years ago, Americans...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Emerging class action litigation targets

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Emerging class action litigation targets

The number of class action cases filed against food and beverage companies continues to...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Threats to bees threaten whole food industry

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Industry stakeholders seek to take the sting out of threats to bees’ health

Spring has finally sprung, which means birds are chirping, crops are blooming and bees...

Key Industry Events

 

Access all events listing

Our events, Shows & Conferences...

Live Supplier Webinars

Food Innovation editorial webinar
William Reed Business Media
Optimizing California Almonds for Plant-Forward Formulations
Almond Board of California

On demand Supplier Webinars

FoodNavigator-USA Flavor Trends editorial webinar
William Reed Business Media
FoodNavigator-USA Clean Label editorial webinar
William Reed Business Media
All supplier webinars

Promotional Features

Content Provided by Fonterra

Way forward with whey protein