Food bio technology
- Biotechnology is defined in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity, i.e. “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use”
- Biotechnology as applied to food processing in most developing countries makes use of microbial inoculants to enhance properties such as the taste, aroma, shelf-life, texture and nutritional value of foods.
- The process whereby micro-organisms and their enzymes bring about these desirable changes in food materials is known as fermentation.
- Fermentation processing is also widely applied in the production of microbial cultures, enzymes, flavours, fragrances, food additives and a range of other high value-added products.
- These high value products are increasingly produced in more technologically advanced developing countries for use in their food and non-food processing applications.
- Many of these high value products are also imported by developing countries for use in their food-processing applications.
Agriculture & Food Biotechnology
- Biotechnology is necessary to maintain our agriculture competitive and remunerative and to achieve nutrition security in the face of major challenges such as
- Declining per capita availability of arable land;
- Lower productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries, heavy production losses due to biotic (insects pests, weeds) and abiotic (salinity, drought, alkalinity) stresses
- Heavy postharvest crop damage and declining availability of water as an agricultural input.
- Investment in agricultural related biotechnology has resulted in significantly enhanced R&D capability and institutional building over the years.
- However, progress has been rather slow in converting the research leads into usable products.
- Uncertainties regarding IPR management and regulatory requirements, poor understanding of risk assessment and lack of effective management and commercialization strategies have been significant impediments. India owns very few genes of applied value.
- The majority of the genes under use about 40 are currently held by MNCs and have been received under material transfer agreements for R&D purpose without clarity on the potential for commercialization.
- The spectrum of biotechnology application in agriculture is very wide and includes
- Generation of improved crops, animals, plants of agro forestry importance;
- Use of molecular markers to tag genes of interest;
- Accelerating of breeding through marker assisted selection;
- Fingerprinting of cultivars, land raises, germplasm stocks;
- DNA based diagnostics for pests / pathogens of crops, farm animals and fish;
- Assessment and monitoring of bio diversity;
- In vitro mass multiplication of elite planting material;
- Embryo transfer technology for animal breeding; food and feed biotechnology.
- Plants and animals are being used for the production of therapeutically or industrially useful products, the emphasis being on improving efficiency and lowering the cost of production.
- However, emphasis should not be on edible vaccines for which use in real life condition is difficult.
- Nutrition and balanced diet are emerging to be important health promotional strategies.
- Biotechnology has a critical role in developing and processing value added products of enhanced nutritive quality and providing tools for ensuring and monitoring food quality and safety.
- It has been estimated that if Biofertilizers were used to substitute only 25% of chemical fertilizers on just 50% of India’s crops the potential would be 2,35,000 MT.
- Today about 13,000 MT of Biofertilizers are used – only 0.36% of the total fertilizer use. The projected production target by 2011 is roughly around 50,000 23 MT.
- Biopesticides have fared slightly better with 2.5% share of the total pesticide market of 2700 crores and an annual growth rate of 10-15 %.
- In spite of the obvious advantages, several constraints have limited their wider usage such as products of inconsistent quality, short shelf life, sensitivity to drought, temperature, and agronomic conditions.
CURRENT USE, RESEARCH AND IMPENDING DEVELOPMENT OF FOODS PRODUCED THROUGH MODERN BIOTECHNOLOGY
Foods produced through modern biotechnology can be categorized as follows:
- Foods consisting of or containing living/viable organisms, e.g. maize.
- Foods derived from or containing ingredients derived from GMOs, e.g. flour, food protein products, or oil from GM soybeans.
- Foods containing single ingredients or additives produced by GM microorganisms (GMMs), e.g. colours, vitamins and essential amino acids.
- Foods containing ingredients processed by enzymes produced through GMMs, e.g. high-fructose corn syrup produced from starch, using the enzyme glucose isomerase (product of a GMM).
Crop breeding and the introduction of GM crops for food production
- Conventional breeding, especially of crops, livestock and fish, focuses principally on increased productivity, increased resistance to diseases and pests, and enhanced quality with respect to nutrition and food processing.
- Advances in cellular genetics and cell biology methods in the 1960s contributed to the so-called ‘green revolution’ that significantly increased varieties of staple food crops containing traits for higher yield and resistance to diseases and pests in a number of both developed and developing countries.
- A key driver of the green revolution was to improve the potential to provide sufficient food for all.
- The intensification and expansion of agriculture brought about by these methods and agricultural systems have, however, also resulted in new forms of health and environmental risks through, for example, increased use of agrochemicals and intensified cultivation resulting in soil erosion.
- Various transformation methods are used to transfer recombinant DNA into recipient species to produce a GMO.
- For plants, these include transformation mediated by Agrobacterium tumefaciens (a common soil bacterium that contains genetic elements for infection of plants) and biolistics shooting recombinant DNA placed on microparticles into recipient cells.
- The methods used in the transformation of various animal species include microinjection, electroporation and germ-line cells.
- The success rate of transformations in animals tends to be lower than in plants, and to vary from species to species, thus requiring the use of many animals.
- Genetic modification is often faster than conventional breeding techniques, as stable expression of a trait is achieved using far fewer breeding generations.
- It also allows a more precise alteration of an organism than conventional methods of breeding, as it enables the selection and transfer of a specific gene of interest.
- However, with the present technology, in many cases it leads to random insertion in the host genome, and consequently may have unintended developmental or physiological effects.
- However, such effects can also occur in conventional breeding and the selection process used in modern biotechnology aims to eliminate such unintended effects to establish a stable and beneficial trait.
Livestock and fish
- In terms of food production, the application of modern biotechnology to livestock falls into two main areas: animal production and human nutrition.
- Many of the applications discussed below are in the early stages of R&D.
- The projected increasing demand for fish suggests that GM fish may become important in both developed and developing countries.
- Enhanced-growth Atlantic salmon containing a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon is likely to be the first GM animal on the food market.
- These fish grow 3–5 times faster than their non-transgenic counterparts, to reduce production time and increase food availability.
- At least eight other farmed fish species have been genetically modified for growth enhancement. Other fish in which genes for growth hormones have been experimentally introduced include grass carp, rainbow trout, tilapia and catfish.
- In all cases, the growth-hormone genes are of fish origin.
Livestock and poultry
- Foods derived from GM livestock and poultry are far from commercial use.
- Several growth enhancing novel genes have been introduced into pigs that have also affected the quality of the meat, i.e. the meat is more lean and tender.
- This research was initiated over a decade ago, but owing to some morphological and physiological effects developed by the pigs, these have not been commercialized. Many modifications to milk have been proposed that either add new proteins to milk or manipulate endogenous proteins.
- Recently, researchers from New Zealand developed GM cows that produce milk with increased levels of casein protein. Use of such protein-rich milk would increase the efficiency of cheese production.
- Other work aims to reduce the lactose content of milk, with the intent of making milk available to the population of milk-intolerant individuals.
Microorganisms as foods
- Currently, there are no known commercial products containing live genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs) on the market.
- In the United Kingdom, GM yeast for beer production has been approved since 1993, but the product was never intended to be commercialized.
- Other microorganisms used in foods (which are in the R&D phase) include starter fermentation cultures for various foods (bakery and brewing), and lactic acid bacteria in cheese.
- R&D is also aimed at minimizing infections by pathogenic microorganisms and improving nutritional value and flavour.
- Attempts have been made to genetically modify ruminant microorganisms for protecting livestock from poisonous feed components.
- Microorganisms improved by modern biotechnology are also under development in the field of probiotics, which are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts as part of food, confer a health benefit on the host.
Food and nutrition
- R&D would be focused on:
- Development of biotechnology tools for evaluating food safety, development of rapid diagnostic kits for detection of various food borne pathogens
- Development of analogical methods for detection of genetically modified foods and products derived there from;
- Development of nutraceuticals / health food supplements/ functional foods for holistic health;
- Development of pre-cooked, ready-to-eat, nutritionally fortified food for school going children;
- Development of suitable pro-biotics for therapeutic purposes and development of bio food additives.
- It is proposed to set up (under the auspices of Department of Biotechnology) an autonomous institute for nutritional biology and food biotechnology (2006).
Biofertilizers and biopesticides
- Priorities would include screening of elite strains of micros-organisms and / or productions of super-strains, better understanding of the dynamics of symbiotic nitrogen fixation, process optimization for fermentor – based technologies, improved shelf life, better quality standards, setting up accredited quality control laboratories and standardization of GMP guidelines.
- Integrated nutrient management system would be further strengthened.
- The fermentation bioprocess is the major biotechnological application in food processing. It is often one step in a sequence of food-processing operations, which may include cleaning, size reduction, soaking and cooking.
- Fermentation bioprocessing makes use of microbial inoculants for enhancing properties such as the taste, aroma, shelf-life, safety, texture and nutritional value of foods.
- Microbes associated with the raw food material and the processing environment serve as inoculants in spontaneous fermentations, while inoculants containing high concentrations of live micro-organisms, referred to as starter cultures, are used to initiate and accelerate the rate of fermentation processes in non-spontaneous or controlled fermentation processes.
- Microbial starter cultures vary widely in quality and purity.
- Spontaneous inoculation of fermentation processes
- In many developing countries, fermented foods are produced primarily at the household and village level, using spontaneous methods of inoculation.
- Spontaneous fermentations are largely uncontrolled.
- A natural selection process, however, evolves in many of these processes which eventually results in the predominance of a particular type or group of micro-organisms in the fermentation medium
- “Appropriate” starter cultures as inoculants of fermentation processes
- “Appropriate” starter cultures are widely applied as inoculants across the fermented food sector, from the household to industrial level in low-income and lower-middle-income economies.
- These starter cultures are generally produced using a backslopping process which makes use of samples of a previous batch of a fermented product as inoculants
- Defined starter cultures as inoculants of fermentation processes
- Few defined starter cultures have been developed for use as inoculants in commercial fermentation processes in developing countries.
- Nevertheless, the past ten years have witnessed the development and application of laboratory-selected and pre-cultured starter cultures in food fermentations in a few developing countries.
- “Defined starter cultures” consist of single or mixed strains of micro-organisms. They may incorporate adjunct culture preparations that serve a food-safety and preservative function.
- Adjunct cultures do not necessarily produce fermentation acids or modify texture or flavour, but are included in the defined culture owing to their ability to inhibit pathogenic or spoilage organisms.
- Their inhibitory activity is due to the production of one or several substances such as hydrogen peroxide, organic acids, diacetyl and bacteriocins.
- Defined starter cultures developed using the diagnostic tools of advanced biotechnologies
- The use of DNA-based diagnostic techniques for strain differentiation can allow for the tailoring of starter cultures to yield products with specific flavours and/or textures.
- Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) techniques have been applied in, for example, Thailand, in the molecular typing of bacterial strains and correlating the findings of these studies to flavour development during the production of the fermented pork sausage, nham.
- The results of these analyses led to the development of three different defined starter cultures which are currently used for the commercial production of products having different flavour characteristics
- GM starter cultures
- To date, no commercial GM micro-organisms that would be consumed as living organisms exist.
- Products of industrial GM producer organisms are, however, widely used in food processing and no major safety concerns have been raised against them.
- Rennet which is widely used as a starter in cheese production across the globe is produced using GM bacteria.
Food additives and processing aids
- Enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, organic acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and certain complex carbohydrates and flavouring agents used in food formulations are currently produced using GM micro-organisms
National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI)
- National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) is the first Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute, established in India on 18th February 2010.
- The institute aims at catalysing the transformation of Agri – food sector in India.
- The institute has the vision to be a nodal organization for knowledge generation and translational science leading to value added products based on Agri-food biotech innovations.
- The main research focus of NABI is to harness biotechnological tools in the area of Agriculture Biotechnology, Food and Nutritional Biotechnology so as to provide sustainable and novel solutions towards quality food and nutrition.
- Activities undertaken at NABI under different areas includes,
- Agricultural Biotechnology
- Food and Nutritional Biotechnology
- Human Resource Development
- Meeting and Courses
- Technology Transfer and Outreach
- The institute has developed strong linkages with National and International organizations and industries.
- The institute is part of agri-food cluster in the “Knowledge City” of Mohali (Punjab) along with its neighboring institutes.