An acronym for "Generally Recognized as Safe", a US Food and Drug Administration designation for artificial additives, G.R.A.S tells the story of one of the world's most coveted spices: vanilla. Native to Mexico, where vanilla orchids are naturally pollinated by endemic bees, the spice is now cultivated largely in Madagascar, where the plant must be pollinated by human hand.
Due to vanilla's high cost of production, other flavorants are often used to mimic its taste. Castoreum, a chemical that comes from the castor glands of beavers, was a popular vanilla substitute until it's own collection process became unsustainable. Today, most "vanilla" is really a concoction of lab-produced chemicals--generally recognized as safe--and castoreum is used in limited quantities, found in luxury products like Eau de Musc.