Biotech Routes to Fragrances Threaten Small Farmers

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In Italy. The production of high-value flavor and fragrance ingredients via genetically modified yeast and bacteria is expected to increase, but agricultural experts say the impact on rural communities in developing countries could be devastating.

“Flavors and fragrances come from plants that rural peoples have cultivated for generations–even centuries–in different parts of the world,” Shalmali Guttal, executive director of activist think tank Focus on the Global South, Thailand, tells Reuters. Growing these ingredients is an important source of income to tens of thousands of small-scale farmers, she adds.

However, Stephan Herrera, vice president, strategy and public affairs at Evolva, says biotech routes are more sustainable and can help fill gaps where the original source is rare or disappearing. This is the case with sandalwood and agarwood treats. He also argues that biotechnology will not endanger jobs because many of these ingredients are already being produced synthetically from petrochemicals.

The land currently being used for fragrance production could also be repurposed for food production, biotech companies argue.