British researchers are part of a project working on a new strain of yeast that has the potential to make it easier to make cheaper and stronger beers. The global project intends to further work to create the first ever “designer” genome from scratch.
Researchers, who have been awarded £1 million of government funding for the project, will first attempt to recreate a slimmed down version of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used in the brewing industry to ferment beer.
It will be the first time a genome has been built from scratch for a eukaryotic organism, the branch of the evolutionary tree that includes plants and animals.
The scientists then aim to redesign parts of the yeast genome so that it can perform functions that are not possible naturally.
The Telegraph points out the apparent ethical issues;
Synthetic biology, however, has created criticism from those who fear that scientists are “playing God” by attempting to create entirely new forms of life.
There are also fears that synthetic life forms could escape into the wild and spread uncontrollably.
However, the scientists insist that they are able to design in fail-safes that will prevent anything from surviving in the wild and claim that strict guidelines govern their work.
To me, the ethical issue is more about business than “playing God”. In an industry where too many beers are bland and lack imagination and we’ve also got the weary category of “tramp juice”, making a mockery of high ABV beers. Beer blogger Paul, the “Sustainable Alcoholic” did us all a favour and tried out a selection of super strength lagers over at his blog so we don’t have to. There’s loads of this horrible swill cluttering up out off licenses as it is… don’t let them make more!
“Drink Responsibly” is already a marketing ploy that makes little to no sense. Bars around the country offer £1 shots, pints under two quid and if you could find me one person who can genuinely, with all seriousness, say that a JägerBomb is a “responsible” beverage then I’ll eat my hat. Or actually drink a JägerBomb… though the hat sounds tastier.
Clearly there are other uses for this new strain of yeast. In a press release from the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation at Imperial College London they explain how “Future applications of this work could include tiny yeast-based machines that can be dropped into water supplies to detect contaminants, and yeast that records environmental conditions during the production of biofuels to determine if improvements can be made to the production process.”
We don’t need “cheaper and stronger” beers, Telegraph. You love to harp on about "binge drinking" but here you are making out like giving big breweries the ability to make cheap, strong brews is a great opportunity.
No, Telegraph, give me a pricey, well crafted beer any day.