Competition to Brand Artificial Vanilla Produced Through Synthetic Biology

ETC Group and Friends of the Earth are launching a public design and branding competition to shine a spotlight on synthetic biology (extreme genetic engineering) in our food. Use your creativity to help us expose an unnatural new ingredient coming to a confection near you.


| Nov. 20, 2013



vanilla 1

As early as next year, a new genetically engineered ingredient could enter our foods. The 'vanilla-like' flavor is produced through a recently developed technology called synthetic biology.


Photo by fotolia/lenushka2012

As early as next year, a new ingredient straight out of a petri dish could enter our favorite foods — from ice cream to apple pie. It's an artificial vanilla-like flavor produced via a new extreme genetic engineering technology called synthetic biology. No government anywhere in the world has taken steps to assess or regulate this technology, yet its imminent arrival on the commercial market may threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of tropical vanilla farmers and their families in countries such as Madagascar and Mexico. 

This new artificial vanilla flavor exists nowhere in nature, but the companies behind it are confident it deserves a 'natural flavor' label. ETC Group and Friends of the Earth believe that would be misleading and that consumers need to know the real story behind this novel, genetically engineered ingredient. 

While the companies don't want to draw attention to the vast distance between vanilla that grows in a pod and an artificial vanilla-like substance produced by engineered microbes in a stainless-steel tank, we think it deserves a name of its own. We tossed around a few possibilities: Vat-nilla? Frankenilla? Syn-illa? We want to hear your ideas.

So we are launching a competition.

It's time to get creative. We are calling all designers, artists, activists, consumer advocates and anyone with a good idea to help us brand the new synthetic biology vanilla-like flavor. What do you think it should be called? Tell us its name. Design a logo, a label or a catchy advertisement! A panel of judges will vote on the best names and designs and give away fantastic prizes derived from real, natural vanilla.

How to Participate in the Competition





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