In an article published on Jan.28, 2021 in Nutrition Business Journal, synthetic biology ("synbio") was identified as a major threat to the North American supply of food and supplements at grocery stores. In particular, natural and organic food brands, retailers, and consumers are in danger of finding these unregulated and unlabelled GMOs in their shopping carts.
The past five years have seen an explosion in startup biotech companies using these new GMOs to create ingredients and products. The Non-GMO Project has tracked a 250% increase in biotech companies -- now numbering more than 400. Many of these start-ups hope to sell to consumers who believe they are buying purely natural products. And the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, passed by Congress in 2016 and launched in 2020, will not apply -- meaning these products are not required to carry a GMO label.
The threat of new GMOs in the food supply is real. In 1989, a Japanese company created L-tryptophan using synbio, for an over-the-counter sleep-aid.  The resulting product caused an eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS) epidemic that sickened thousands and led to 60 deaths. The outbreak resulted from unintended side-effects caused through synbio, according to Dr. John Fagan, chief scientist of Health Research Institute–HRI Labs, who recently invented a test to detect new GMOs in food and supplements.
Ingredients such as vanillin and other flavorings, colorants, CBD, collagen, plant-based proteins, dairy proteins, vitamins, omegas, and probiotics are all being developed through synbio and slipping into the food supply without regulation.
The potential impacts include destroying the livelihoods of farmers and producers of natural products such as vanilla, which is the single most important export in at least five countries in the Global South.
The article suggests that it is urgent for the natural and organic food industry to take a stand against new GMOs. One way of doing that is to continue to support the Non-GMO Project, the only 3rd-party certifier in North America of non-GMO products. The Non-GMO Project Standard is regularly updated to address new GMOs produced through technologies like CRISPR and synbio. That means the Non-GMO Project Verification seal, which features the familiar monarch butterfly, will continue to be the most trusted way to avoid synbio for food manufacturers and consumers who don't want this experimental new form of genetic engineering in the food supply.