Flavor Where You’d ‘Yeast’ Expect It

By, Sammy Caiola

Native Foods Cafe 

It seems genetic engineers are spicing up the market for
plant-based items like saffron and vanilla, which can now be produced in a lab
by genetically modifying yeast. Just a few magic tricks in a giant industrial
vat and we’ve got a replenishable supply of some of the most sought-after
fragrances, which means we no longer have to take down large sections of
endangered crops in order to acquire them. It’s a green solution to the
lavender problem!

Engineers nationwide announced
this week that they’re using an inventive process called synthetic biology to
genetically modify yeast into products that mimic plant fragrances. There are a
few environmental pros to this, but the biggest one is the potential to reduce
deforestation and overharvesting of in-demand crops. Sandalwood, for example,
is typically grown in India and Australia but has seen a significant
in its wild populations due to illegal logging. It takes more than
1000 trees to produce 1 ton of wood, which is used to make one of the most
valuable oils in the world. Producing a sandalwood substitute in the lab could
mean a longer survival period for actual sandalwood. It would also reduce the
negative environmental affects of actual sandalwood harvesting and the
associated energy expenditure. Not to mention cutting out delivery costs and
fuel usage for the importation of crops from all over the world. If the
strategy works, Americans will be able to meet their own fragrance demand in a
local, sustainable manner. 


Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of

The same can be said for many plant derivatives that humans
have adapted for recreational use. This new development would probably drive
down the market price of aromatic products like candles and lotions. With a dry
winter coming, that can only be a good thing.

The process of producing the fragrances is not unlike
brewing beer, scientists say, except yeast makes alcohol naturally and won’t
make spices without a little help. The engineers are actually doing quite the
number on yeast with synthetic biology, which involves assembling artificial
genes to create a new material. The versatility and compatibility of yeast was
discovered this summer, when scientists around the world started experimenting
with this eukaryotic organism with plans to make vaccines and biofuels out of
synthetic yeast. It could end up being the next big thing.


Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of BBC.uk.com

So, whatever your exotic fragrance of choice is (I’m partial
to sage), keep your eyes peeled for a greener, yeastier version of it making
its way to your grocery store. In the meantime, come on down to Native for some
of our own plant-inspired drinks like the Lavender Lemonade!








Native Foods Cafe a vegan restaurant, vegan, vegan food

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