Genetically modified beer--anybody bothered?

Belgian microbiologists have genetically modified yeast to make more delectable beer, according to a new paper published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal. The scientists screened DNA of a strain of yeast particularly good at retaining its flavour to find the genetic mutation of one gene that makes isoamyl acetate. They then used the revolutionary gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to insert this mutation into another commercial yeast to make a superior strain, producing more banana flavour.
Probably aimed at the Great Combines, but how many of you would care if your beer was the product of genetic engineering? Tbh, I am not sure I would in time.

1 Like

Definitely wouldn’t care if it was determined not to produce anything it shouldn’t, which should be easy to ascertain.

Anti-GMO hate is, same as anti-nuclear, often (but not always!) ignorance- and hysteria-driven.

I largely agree, although we actually know surprisingly little about how the human gut works, given all the organisms involved in it. So working out in advance that there will be no negative interactions isn’t easy. But that has been true about beer for a very very long time so I am not going to panic just yet.

1 Like

Seems like Drake’s already brewed with genetically modified yeast and released the beer called weird science in 2019:
Weird Science: Brewing with Genetically Engineered Yeast.

Interesting. I know there’s a lot of corporate research on improving yeast strains so it was bound to be out there.

I’d be fine with it.

the short answer is it depends - More information is required to determine if it’s been done safely, and whether or not the GEO actually offers a significant enough benefit to make it “worth it”.

GMO vs. GEO is important distinction for me. People often say we have been modifying organisms for centuries, pointing to grafting, cross breeding etc. but these are mostly modifications that could have happened naturally. That is a distinction with meaningful difference for me - inserting genes from one species to another is GEO, not GMO to me. It’s not clear (to me) whether or not this particular yeast modification could have been created by more traditional yeast cultivation methods.

For me the scariest part of GEOs is that the potential consequences are often longer term and may not show up until it’s too late. Also, to my knowledge, there has been limited research on the potential cumulative effects of eating multiple GEO species. Similar to other engineered compounds I think there needs to be a stronger emphasis on proving things are safe, vs. assuming they are until shown otherwise. (PFAS/PFOA being a great example of a chemical that has long term consequences that were not well known until it had been in wide use for quite some time.)

1 Like

I read somewhere that our scientific knowledge of the ecology of the gut is very limited. We are not even able to explain all the effects of alcohol. New research correlates gut changes with various brain conditions. Like the rest of life, every beer is an experiment we choose to make! Happy New Year!