Ecover and Method Products Plan To Use Synthetically Created New Life Forms


Published:

Photo via Flickr

Synthetically Modified Organisms (SMOs) are new life forms of self-reproducing yeast and algae containing artificially constructed DNA.

In an open letter released June 2, 2014, 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women's health and farming groups called on leading "natural" cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.

The organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Women's Voices for the Earth, Clean Production Action, Organic Consumers Association, and ETC Group, as well as watchdog and farmer groups in Brazil concerned about the environmental impacts of increased demand for Brazilian sugarcane, say the use of synthetic biology ingredients contradicts Ecover and Method's branding as "sustainable" and "ecologically sound." 

"Synthetic biology is a new area of extreme genetic engineering and there are no regulations yet in place to deal with the implications of these new synthetic organisms. Our ability to even assess the risks is lagging way behind," said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. "A wider switch to synthetic biology ingredients is likely to cause serious harm to biodiversity and farmers, and it is disappointing that Ecover and Method are leading the charge."

Synthetic Biology Creates New Algae and Yeast Life Forms Designed To Reproduce

Synthetic biology is the practice of artificially constructing genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life or attempt to reprogram existing organisms, such as yeast and algae. Synthetic biology companies claim that they can now generate millions of new, untested organisms per day. If a fraction of these synthetic organisms were released, the potential effects on health, the environment and farmer's livelihoods are wide-ranging — from relatively benign to ecological and economic disruption.

The New York Times reported on Friday that synthetic biology ingredients are rapidly entering consumer products and food in absence of adequate health and environmental safety assessment, regulations or labeling. 

"While other types of pollution can be cleaned up and do not breed, synbio organisms are designed to reproduce and, once released into the environment, they will be impossible to recall," said Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth-U.S. "Consumers will likely reject these new, risky, unlabeled and virtually unregulated 'GMOs 2.0.' and we know that truly green, sustainable companies will as well." Ecover's announcement did not disclose that the algal oil it plans to use in its products would be a product of synthetic biology or genetic modification.

Consumer Reports Says Synthetically Modified Organisms Are Untested, Not "Natural"

"We are surprised that Ecover thinks its green-minded customers would want to be associated with an untested and unregulated technology," says Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. "We are also disappointed that Ecover and Method have been less than straightforward about their decision. Products derived from Synthetically Modified Organisms (SMOs) should not be marketed as 'natural,' or 'ecological'."

Ecover claims synthetic biology algal oil will be a more sustainable replacement for palm oil in some products. While palm oil is a leading cause of deforestation, today's open letter explains that synthetic biology oils are actually not a sustainable alternative. Solazyme raises its algae on sugarcane. Increased demand for sugar could result in destruction of biodiversity hotspots, including Brazil's fragile and biodiverse cerrado and tropical forests in Latin America, Africa and South East Asia, for more sugar cane production.

Ecover representatives have confirmed that the company has the option of switching to coconut oil, a feedstock that is often more sustainably produced by small farmers. The ingredient in question, lauric acid, is routinely sourced from coconut oil.

Synthetically Modified Organisms Feed on Environmentally Destructive Sugarcare

"We welcome Ecover's concern about environmentally destructive palm oil, but switching to Brazilian sugarcane and synthetic biology ingredients is not an improvement," said Jeff Conant, a palm oil campaigner with Friends of the Earth. "Feeding an environmentally destructive material like sugarcane to synthetic organisms does not make it more environmentally friendly; it makes it less so." "As a socially and ecologically responsible alternative to palm kernel oil, which is often from palms grown on clear cut forest land, coconut oil, when obtained from well-managed established plantations, is far better than any solution based on synthetic biology," explained Jaydee Hanson of Center for Food Safety. "That solution could support tropical farmers and really would be 'natural' rather than misleading consumers."

The group's letter calls for Ecover to: pledge not to use ingredients derived from synthetic organisms; acknowledge that such ingredients cannot be considered natural, green, ecologically sound or sustainable; and join in calling for a moratorium on the commercial use and environmental release of organisms produced via synthetic biology.

"The commercial use of synthetic biology organisms is completely new, unregulated and the effects are unknown," said Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association. "We need companies, individuals and governments to cooperate to put a moratorium on the release of these new organisms until we better understand the consequences of these decisions."

The open letter, along with a complete list of signatories, sent to Ecover can be found at http://www.etcgroup.org/content/open-letter-ecover-method. More information on synthetic biology can be found at: www.etcgroup.org; www.nosynbio.org; www.synbiowatch.org.

Expert Contacts: Jim Thomas, Program Director, ETC Group, jim@etcgroup.org, 514-273 9994 (o), 514-516 5759 (c) Dana Perls, Food and Technology Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, dperls@foe.org, 510-978-4425 (o), 925-705-1074 (c) Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist, Consumers Union, mhansen@consumer.org, 914-378-2452 (o), 917-774-3801(c)

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 12, 2019

Minutes after midnight the “Cold” Moon is Full in Gemini. Trust may be tested, making a leap of faith a necessity. Faced with unknowns and other mysteries, there could be no other choice than to carry on as best as possible. The Moon then embarks on a…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Show More...
Show Less...

What is a vigorous yoga practice, and who can benefit from it? With Marissa McAleer and Julie Rost This workshop will explore a more physical practice of yoga and how it can be used to...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

The Wellness Roundtable Holistic Practitioners Network creates an environment for wellness practitioners to inspire, educate and support one another, while building community and encouraging...

Cost: $20 (Drop-ins are welcome)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman St
#108B
Westborough, MA
View map »


Sponsor: 01581
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

How would it feel to have direct education on changing your feelings so you do start to ask for what you truly want? Each month, come and practice hands-on skills to get into the habit of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The nights of December fall dark and early. Homes are filled with warm firelight and flickering candle glow. As the year draws to a close, pause under the peaceful light of December’s Full...

Cost: $10–15 suggested donation

Where:
A Touch of Magick
195 S Main Street
Uxbridge, MA
View map »


Telephone: (508) 779-7386
Website »

More information

Sound baths provide an opportunity to relax and journey into a healing, meditative and rejuvenating state. There is nothing you need to do, know or believe. Join us for a powerful, yet casual...

Cost: $25

Where:
Moth & Moon Studio
173 South River Rd
Suite #4
Bedford, NH  03110
View map »


Sponsor: Jeffrey Charles Warren
Contact Name: Jeffrey Warren
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Multi-skilled, and varied holistic practitioner group in Lincoln Area / Metro-West Boston welcomes new practitioner-members. Open invitation to any local practitioner, teacher, researcher,...

Cost: Free, or $5-$15

Where:
Member-homes/offices
Lincoln, MA  01773-4107


Sponsor: Lincoln Area Wellness Collaborative
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This is a class that will teach you how to make your own wire-wrapped gemstone pendant! Don’t be discouraged—it is simpler than you think, and you’ll have great fun in crafting...

Cost: $40 per person or $35 more than one, includes supplies

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers — Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags