Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, shows unwavering support for an arena that often garners negative attention.
What are GMOs again?
An organism can be programmed to do something it wouldn’t normally do. This can be peculiar – for example, a mouse that fluoresces flamingly in the dark. But more often, we do this for practicality. For non-browning apples. For tomatoes that seem to stay fresh indefinitely.
It involves “borrowing” a desired trait from one organism and introducing said trait into another via transfer of DNA. GMOs refer to the genetically modified organisms themselves (i.e. plants, animals, micro-organisms). They take on forms and functions that would not exist in nature otherwise.
Natural ≠ Best
Today, Ginkgo Bioworks is expanding the level of automation that occurs in genetic modification to connect its clients with the very best engineered organisms. “Biology is the most advanced manufacturing technology on the planet,” says Ginkgo. One application of automated organism engineering is in the discovery of optimal strains for industrial fermentation processes.
GMOs were an early source of inspiration for Kelly, who grew up watching his father struggle with the side effects of natural pig insulin. “Biological engineers had transferred human DNA-encoding insulin into bacteria, and that meant my dad could get the real thing and no longer had to make do with insulin from animals,” he recounted in a New York Times op-ed.
It is no surprise, then, that Kelly has established himself as a thought leader on the merits of genetic engineering in commercial and consumer spaces. After all, his company balances GMOs by the billions with connotations of social/environmental consciousness and coolness on a daily basis. Instead, he redirects the conversation to transparency, adding “clear, informative labeling is a first step toward transparency that can build trust and educate consumers.”