26 July 2014

Genetically Modified Yeast on the Way

Kevin Verstrepen, a leading yeast geneticist at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and the University of Leuven, Belgium, was interviewed recently in Popular Mechanics about genetically engineered yeast. Apparently, the university has several modified yeast strains in their freezers that eliminate undesirable yeast produced factors. However, public sentiment against GMOs is keeping those yeasts out of breweries.

Verstrepen said that since yeast aren't normally consumed by humans, the argument that the modification could be dangerous is a non-issue. However, some beers, hefeweizen springs to mind, does have yeast in it. And many beers are bottle conditioned, so I think the risk is higher than Verstrepen lets on.

It's the effect of the yeast on the wild population should it get out of the brewery that is the biggest concern. Verstrepen said that was the modified yeast out competing wild yeast in that even is unlikely, but something to watch out for.

I have visions of rabbits and cane toads in Australia in my head right now.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 11:50

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