Human Practices

   As we began to research further into the potential of zero-calorie sweeteners, we realized that reducing cost was not the only factor prohibiting their widespread adoption. While cost reduction is an essential keystone to expanding accessibility, we quickly understood that negative public perception regarding the health consequences of zero-calorie sweeteners is also a pertinent concern. Additionally, since our solution utilizes genetic engineering, we realized that the public’s fears of GMOs and ‘unnatural’ products would become a barrier to adoption as well.

   Therefore, we discovered three main barriers to large-scale adoption of zero-calorie sweeteners: fear of negative health consequences, high costs, and fear of ‘unnatural’ or GMO ingredients. Culminating in three distinct yet intertwined ‘storylines’, our mission was to bring awareness to the benefits and science of alternative sweeteners, to lower costs through innovation, and to promote open discussion on the topic of GMOs and the definition of ‘natural’.

   Our first storyline, Sweet and Safe?, explores the controversial health ramifications of zero-calorie sweeteners. At What Cost?, our second storyline, questions how projects can become economically viable and what role do-it-yourself biology can play. Our third storyline, What is Natural? delves into the philosophical underpinnings of our beliefs on what is natural and what isn’t; as well as the interplay of genetic engineering in this question.

What is Natural?

In our What is Natural? storyline, we explore and question how we define the word ‘Natural’ as well as strive to better understand how genetic engineering interacts with that definition. Given the rising controversy around GMOs, we realized that public fears of GMOs could actively prohibit adoption of compounds produced via genetic engineering. Since our endeavor to expand accessibility to zero-calorie sweeteners utilized genetic engineering technology, we took it upon ourselves to learn more about public perception around both GMOs and the concept of ‘Natural.’ Join us as we explore these questions through unique perspectives, learn intriguing ideas from prominent figures, and hope to inspire the next generation of scientists!

Bioethicist: Sandra Dreisbach

Professor of Law: Marsha Cohen

Mayor Hurst of Watsonville

Greenpeace GMO Debate

COSMOS Students


At What Cost?

In our At What Cost? storyline, we question how projects can become economically viable, as well as explore how what role the Do-It-Yourself biology movement could play. With most products in the market, prohibitively high costs restrict accessibility from those with tight wallets. Therefore, the focus of 2016 UCSC iGEM project was reduce costs for erythritol by combining genetic engineering with the agricultural waste dilemma. This storyline, however, explores how synthetic biology projects can bolster their commercial viability in a universal manner, as well as how current trends could play a role in that pursuit. Join us as learn age-old business wisdom, learn about the Do-It-Yourself biology movement, and contemplate the relationship between accessibility and innovation!

Vertical Integration

Biotechnology Applications Specialist: Andrew Lanutti

DIY Biotech Lab Visit

iGEM Students

Dr. Nader Pourmand and Dr. Jevgenij Raskatov

Bioreactor Handbook

Sweet'N Safe?

In the Sweet and Safe? storyline, we set out to learn more about the public’s perceptions on the health consequences of zero-calorie sweeteners. Since our mission was to expand accessibility to these sweeteners, we recognized the importance of understanding what the public feared most. Since the scientific consensus on the safety of these sweeteners were often unaligned with the public’s fears, we decided to explore some of the benefits these sweeteners offered in order to bring awareness to the positive attributes as well. We hope you enjoy our journey through exploring public perceptions in the Sweet and Safe? storyline!

Nutritionist: Phyllis Roxland

Suzanne Somers

Dental Researcher: Alireza Moshaverinia

Diabetes Consultant: David Mendosa

American Diabetes Association Interview

Diabetes Walk