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iGEM blog: naturally manipulated

08 September 2015

iGEM’s Blue Energy team has but a few weeks to finish a bacterial membrane that should generate electricity. And if that weren’t enough, they have also been busy discussing the ethics of synthetic biology. How natural is a genetically modified bacterium?

Presentations of Team Blue Energy at the GBB symposium (left) and at the Rathenau Institute | Foto Team Blue Energy
Presentations of Team Blue Energy at the GBB symposium (left) and at the Rathenau Institute | Foto Team Blue Energy

Each year the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB) holds a symposium where professors and PhD students explain their projects. We at iGEM presented our project here too. Everything went very well and people were really enthusiastic. The responses afterwards were also most positive and many people have wished us luck in the last two weeks.

We will definitely need it too, because the presentation made it clear that we still need to do loads of tests and analyze the results. So the group will definitely need to get stuck in. You can help us with coffee and words of support.


On Monday 7 September we visited the conference Industrial biotechnology: purveyor of biobased products . A very strange title indeed, but to summarize, it was about synthetic biology and the best way to inform the public about the new technologies.

It was a most inspiring afternoon. The only downside was that the audience here was not particularly critical of synthetic biology. Hardly anyone was against our idea to use bacteria as a filter in the wild. We had expected things to be somewhat different, but the discussion was very inspiring and informative nevertheless.

One of the conclusions was that consumers prefer to eat food that is 100 percent natural, but that we don’t really know what that is. Are additives such as flavour enhancers, aromas, preservatives and colourings natural or not? Almost everything occurs naturally on our planet and is ‘therefore’ natural. The film here illustrates the misconception really well!


If patients can choose between a pill made by a pharmaceutical company and a drink made from plants, they will almost always choose the pill. But when it comes to food they have their reservations, even if it has been proven that the processed product is not harmful. So there is often an unfounded fear of the unnatural. iGEM Groningen tries to discuss this fear with people and to explain what synthetic biology exactly is.

Our website will have our full attention this week. As you may have seen, it still doesn’t contain any text. If all goes well, it will go online at the same time as this blog. If you have any more questions, do feel free to ask them!

Read our last blog posts too: Team iGEM Groningen 2015: Blue Bio energy and The fascination of bacteria

Text: Wiebrand de Boer

More information on Team Groningen on their iGEM website and their University of Groningen crowdfunding page .

Last modified:20 April 2018 10.29 a.m.
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