Brands use Perfect Day® synbio proteins to create GMO ice cream
A genetically engineered ice cream has been rushed to market with consumer messaging that obscures the fact that the ice cream is GMO, according to a prominent public health attorney.
The Urgent Company recently launched Brave Robot ice cream, which is made using synthetic biology a genetic engineering process. Yet, Brave Robot’s website says the product doesn’t contain GMOs.
The Urgent Company is one of a growing number of companies using synthetic biology—or synbio—to make these products. Synbio is a GMO technique that involves altering the DNA of microorganisms such as algae, bacteria, and yeast to produce compounds like flavors and dairy proteins. Perhaps the most well-known synbio food product is the Impossible Burger, which is produced using a genetically engineered substance called “heme” that makes the fake burger appear to bleed like real meat.
It’s important to note, all products of new genetic engineering techniques, including synbio, are defined as GMOs by the Non-GMO Project’s Standard.
Rushed to market in 16 weeks
According to Michele Simon, public health attorney, author, and founder and former executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, there are several problems with Brave Robot ice creams. First, she questions whether the products were rushed to market without a proper legal review. In fact, the Urgent Company brought Brave Robot to market in just 16 weeks.
Food technology company Perfect Day launched The Urgent Company to develop products using Perfect Day’s synbio proteins.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Perfect Day co-founder Perumal Gandhi said The Urgent Company was so named because: “You only get so much time on earth… and we wanted to do more… That’s why it’s called The Urgent Company… [because] let’s hurry the fuck up, world.”
Retailers describe Brave Robot as “plant-based” when it is not. Simon points out that the product contains whey protein, a dairy protein could trigger allergic reactions for some people.
“As a food lawyer, seeing mislabeled products sends shivers down my spine,” Simon writes. “This is not your run of the mill deceptive labeling. People’s lives are potentially at risk with the wrong labeling on products containing such a common allergen as dairy protein.”
Also, there are some media outlets and bloggers who have wrongly described Brave Robot as “plant-based.” An article about Brave Robot on the “Sweety High” website is titled “Brave Robot Is the Plant-Based Ice Cream That Seriously Puts the Classic to Shame.” The Urgent Company calls its product “animal-free,” but Simon points out that could be wrongly interpreted as meaning “vegan” when the product contains a dairy protein.
Simon also says The Urgent Company is greenwashing their use of genetic engineering. On its website the company claims that its product “does not contain GMOs,” yet synthetic biology is a genetic engineering process. The Urgent Company says that the non-animal whey protein it uses comes from “microflora” and calls their synbio process “precision fermentation,” which is a euphemism for synthetic biology, according to Simon. The company says “biotechnology” is used to “turn microflora into tiny factories that make useful molecules—often proteins.”
In an interview with FoodNavigator-USA, Perfect Day co-founder Perumal Gandhi bragged: “Not many CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies can get a product from concept to launch in 16 weeks.”
“That’s because it’s usually not a good idea,” Simon wrote.
(Sources: “The confusing and potentially harmful labeling of Perfect Day’s biotech ice cream” by Michele Simon, The Non-GMO Project)