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On a Laundry Shelf Near You

Ingredients made using synthetic biology methods are beginning to appear in laundry detergents, other soaps, and skin care lines, the New York Times reports. But, it adds, some consumer and environmental groups are pushing against the use of ingredients made using genetically modified organisms.

Ecover, a Belgian maker of environmentally friendly household products, has switched to using an algal oil made from Solazyme instead of palm kernel oil, which is in such high demand that environmentalists worry tropical forests are being cleared to grow palm trees.

"We support Ecover's determination to move away from using unsustainable palm oil, but would ask your company to reconsider the false solution of using ingredients derived from the new genetic engineering — synthetically modified organisms," a group of environmental and consumer groups wrote to the company. The group also questioned the company's use of the terms "green" and "natural" in its description of such products.

Other companies are declining to say whether their products include such ingredients. Unilever is using algal oil from Solazyme in one of its soaps, but hasn't disclosed whether that oil was made using synthetic biology tools, the Times adds.

Environmental and consumer groups are also calling on companies to include labels on their products that indicate that synthetic biology was used to make some of its ingredients. Ecover notes that it is working to address such labeling concerns.