Public Safety

During our project discussions and our presentations it became clear that the close proximity of the meat and bacteria was not easily accepted by the public. That is why we decided to take extra care in designing the indication sticker. We made absolutely sure there was no possibility that our Bacillus or its spores were able to come into contact with the environment or the preserved meat, possibly endangering the public and environment.

We consulted specialized companies for participation and contribution to our project using their knowledge of materials. As a result, we decided to use TPX® Polymethylpentene as the sticker's outer membrane. It is a strong polymer with nanopores of around 0.5 um diameter. These nanopores ensure that no bacteria will come into contact with the meat, but still allow the volatiles to reach the bacteria. This material is approved by FDA-standards and EU-food-standards.

Not only does the sticker design ensure the safety of the public, the nutrient composition does as well. Bacillus subtilis should only germinate and grow when the sticker is still intact. However, even if our Bacillus is exposed to an environment that is favorable for growth, the genetic modified insert is not harmful for humans, animals or the environment. Furthermore, the strain used in our final product is considered a food-grade strain. More on the safety aspect of the GMO is found on the environmental safety page.

With proper use of the Food Warden system none of the B. subtilis cells are released. In that case, there will be no danger to the public.

Public perception

For a better perception of the public view on our project we asked the science shop of our university for advice. The University of Groningen actively seeks cooperation with citizens, governments and business. The goal is to deploy academic expertise for the benefit of nonprofit groups and organizations which represent a public interest, and to contribute to practice based education, social engagement and the acquisition of communication skills by students. Five different science shops are linked to the RUG, one for each of the major faculties. All cover a different aspect of science namely: Beta (exact/natural sciences), culture, language & communication, business and economy, education, medicine and healthcare. We chose to contact the beta science shop as they cover the field of life science.

Firstly, they suggested we contact the voedsel en waren authoriteit (translated: Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) of the Dutch government. For more information on this, check our food safety page.

Second, they pointed out that we must formulate a development plan if we want to make Food Warden a product for the public. A thorough and detailed description of product development and usage is important for public perception and for the consumer. GMOs are not easily accepted by the public, so we need to show that the product is safe and beneficial to society.

We are in the process of making a market-research section on our wiki page in which we will ask the public audience to give us their opinions on various aspects of the Food Warden system. The research should provide insight into the questions of acceptance of GMOs for household use, the desirability of the Food Warden system, and the effect of such a product on the prevention of food spoilage.

We believe that our product has an ethical foundation: the reduction of food waste. With the use of synthetic biology we provide an innovative way to prevent the waste of food. We also want help change the public opinion on GMOs and show that this field of science can be beneficial for society. In times of rising food costs and famine we hope that we can make a small contribution in the effort to solve these problems worldwide.

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