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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) “I think people should love GMOs,” says Jason Kelly, the CEO and cofounder of Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech company. “We’re super proud of them.” The company, which is small and run by a “band of exuberant nerds from MIT,” reprograms single-celled organisms like yeast and bacteria so that they turn out useful molecules for food, perfume and industrial applications. The company, this article says, is trying to reset the conversation around biotechnology by extolling the virtues of the technology to consumers and advocating for transparency. Ginkgo’s latest greatest project is a partnership with Bayer to launch a new company that would genetically engineer microbes to make nitrogen fertilizer, a process that currently requires an enormous amount of fossil fuel. Kelly says his company is not the only one pitching themselves as a solution to the ills of industrial farming. “You pick your favorite animal food product right now and there’s two or three start-ups working on it,” he said. And focusing on the consumer seems to be helping refurbish GMOs’ image. Says Ryan Bethencourt, who, until recently, ran an accelerator for biotech start-ups, “There’s a new openness to using genetic-engineering technology that hasn’t been there. Maybe this started five years ago.” According to Kelly, much of the queasiness around GMOs is actually a queasiness about industrial agriculture. He thinks the war on GMOs is actually a proxy war for the fight over industrial agriculture. “That technology is starting to be a useful tool in the real fight [over industrial agriculture]. It’s actually going to help reduce industrial farming with things like the Impossible Burger and things we're doing with nitrogen fixing,” he says. “When that happens, you want to start using it if you want to reform the ag system.” But, this article concludes, “if new GMOs are going to truly make the world a better place, they’ll have to appeal to many more people. They’ll have to replace whole industries that feed and clothe millions. In other words, they too will have to function at an industrial scale—perhaps the actual thing that makes people uncomfortable.”

Posted February 13th, 2018