Published: February 4, 2023

Category: GMO News

The stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) features leaves that contain sweetness compounds known as rebaudiosides, or Rebs for short. Each Reb has a slightly different flavor profile. When extracted from the stevia leaf, they combine to create a sweetener that has a slightly bitter, and often unpopular, aftertaste. Various brands of synthetic biology (synbio) stevia have been on the market for several years and were developed, in part, to address this drawback. Through synbio, developers have been able to select and recreate the sweetest Rebs (e.g., Reb M), of the stevia plant while leaving the other, more bitter Rebs behind.

But in the ever-expanding quest for low- or no-calorie sweeteners, biotechnology developers are now turning their attention to creating new sweetness proteins that mimic those present in less common fruit, such as fruit from the West African oubli and katemfe plants, which are known for their intense sweetness. Some of these novel proteins provide sweetness on their own; others are taste modifiers that are not sweet in their own right but affect sweetness receptors to make foods taste more sweet.

This new group of sweetness and taste-modifying proteins includes brazzein, thaumatin, curculin, mabinlin, and miraculin. Most are being developed using synbio, also known as precision fermentation, but at least one developer is using molecular farming. These synbio sweetener developers include Joywell Foods, Conagen/Sweegen, Amai Proteins, Brain Biotech/Roquette, and Nomad Bioscience/Nambawan Biotech.

Source: Non-GMO Project

Organic & Non-GMO Insights, February 2023