Sep 052014
These ice cream makers aren’t down with vanilla’s brand new invention

(This article originally appeared in Grist) by Madeleine Thomas Häagen-Dazs, the company known for its simple, less-ingredients-is-more approach to ice cream, recently confirmed that it doesn’t plan to use vanilla flavoring derived from synthetic biology — the process of  inserting computer-generated DNA into living cells to create products such as food additives. Nestlé (which produces Häagen-Dazs in Canada and the U.S.) and General Mills (which produces Häagen-Dazs outside of North America) confirmed their allegiance to natural vanilla [More]

Aug 292014
GMOs 2.0: Synthetic Biology – Impacts on Our Food, Farmers, Consumer Products & Health

A new generation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is quietly entering our food supply, cosmetics and household products.  What is Synthetic Biology and what are the real costs to our food, ecosystem and farmers locally and around the world? Where: Mill Valley Community Center, Cascade Room.  180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. When: Oct. 9, 2014; 7 – 9 pm. When: Free event. Donations appreciated at the door. RSVP: Click here to RSVP   Join us [More]

Jul 172014

[This article was originally published in The Ecologist.] Following The Ecologist’s revelation about Ecover’s use of synthetic biology to make laundry detergent, the company has put its trials on hold, writes Jim Thomas. But to regain public trust, the company must re-engage honestly with its critics, and its customers. A month ago, The Ecologist revealed that ‘eco-friendly’ soap maker Ecover was using an algae oil produced using synthetic biology (Syn Bio), sometimes called ‘extreme genetic engineering’. And now tens [More]

Jul 082014

This article originally appeared in the Guardian. Synthetic biology is attracting attention from both scientists and regulators. But there is little agreement on what it is. Can we find a road out of synthetic biology’s definitional quagmire? by Jim Thomas He was looking quite lost. An eminent scientist and UN delegate was stumbling over the meaning of a term that has been the subject of recent international debates: “synthetic biology.” Often called “extreme genetic engineering,” [More]

Jun 172014

The following is a response to 7 Busted Myths About Solazyme’s Renewable Oils, an article which purports to debunk the claims of groups campaigning against use of synthetic biology in consumer products. Maxx, Your transparency about your financial interest in the outcome of this debate is appreciated. However, your “debunking” either misses the point or doesn’t address it. 1. Is Syn Bio regulated? Poorly if at all. You debunked your own debunking pretty well here. [More]

Jun 162014

(Originally published by The Ecologist) by Jim Thomas Disappointment, surprise, disbelief. I think I felt a bit of all of these when I discovered that ‘natural’ soap-maker Ecover had become the first company in the world to reveal its use of synthetic biology in the manufacture of consumer products. The Belgian multinational revealed in April that it has decided to use an algal oil. What it didn’t explain was that the algae oil was produced [More]

Jun 132014
That ‘Natural’ Vanilla in Your Ice Cream May Soon Be Coming from a Biotech Lab

Synthetic biology firms’ foray into food and fragrances faces resistance from greens and consumer groups  BY MAUREEN NANDINI MITRA – JUNE 12, 2014 This article was originally published by Earth Island Journal The first time I ever tasted real vanilla was in a scoop of French vanilla ice cream back in 2000 when I was visiting the United States. The ice cream’s smooth, rich flavor was far superior to the artificial, overly-sweet, “vanilla essence” usually [More]