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For the Smell and Taste of It

A few synthetic biology companies are turning to developing so-called 'fine chemicals,' high-priced food and fragrance ingredients, reports Erika Check Hayden in Nature News. For instance, she notes that engineered yeast has already been used to produce valencene and nootkatone, which smell like oranges and grapefruits, for use in perfumes and cosmetics.

Products for this niche, Evolva's Neil Goldsmith tells her, "take less time to develop, they take less money to develop, and they’re much less risky." Fine chemicals can be sold for between $10 and $10,000 per kilogram, while a kilogram of biofuel may go for about $1, Check Hayden adds.

Still, Check Hayden adds that how consumer will respond to synthetic biology-derived additives isn't known. She says that one environmental group has an online petition urging food companies not use vanillin made through synthetic biology in ice cream.