A “next gen” sweetener called EverSweet, that uses genetically engineered yeast to convert sugar molecules to mimic the stevia plant, is now available in commercial quantities.
Cargill and synthetic biology pioneer Evolva are targeting the product to producers of low- and zero-calorie cola drinks, claiming its taste is sweeter and more “rounded,” without the bitter aftertaste, of products derived from stevia plant leaves. EverSweet is composed of steviol glycosides Reb M and Reb D, which replace sugar 100 percent (stevia leaf extract is 30 percent). EverSweet was developed using synthetic biology, a new tool of genetic engineering that changes or creates DNA to artificially synthesize compounds.
But consumers are drawn to stevia because it’s a natural product, says Faith Son of PureCircle—so who needs a lab-created, GMO version? FDA considers it safe, but it carries the same risks as older GM crops. Cargill’s website cites transparency in the manufacturing, avoiding the terms “synthetic biology” and “genetic engineering” in favor of “fermentation derived” and “nature identical.”
Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth calls EverSweet marketing “a sugar-coated media narrative to confuse the public, ignore the risks, and claim the mantle of ‘sustainability’ for potentially profitable new synthetic biology products.”
The synbio EverSweet also threatens the livelihoods of indigenous farmers in Paraguay and Kenya who grow stevia crops.
Stevia from the land or the lab—take your pick—but it won’t be easy, since the lab stuff won’t be labeled….
Source: FoodNavigator USA
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