In the past eight years, SynBio startups received billions of dollars on the promise that they could engineer algae or bacteria that would eat plant matter and produce jet fuels or exotic biofuels.
They successfully made new organisms that did this, but they ran into trouble achieving production on a scale that made it competitive.
When the first wave of SynBio investment failed to deliver, farmers globally exhaled a sigh of relief. Massive monocultures for biomass uses such as biofuels are already displacing food production in Africa and Asia, and it must have felt like they dodged a bullet.
But the companies started searching for new applications for their sophisticated labs. Now, they believe they have found a quick way to monetize synthetic biology. Their answer is to engineer microorganisms to synthesize food, fragrance and other consumer products. That puts farmers back in the crosshairs.
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