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Sent: 10 July 2004 17:08
Subject: 57: To create science-based enterprises and improve livelihoods
This is from Dr Jorge Mayer, Golden Rice Project Manager, Campus Technologies Freiburg, University of Freiburg, Germany.
To create science-based enterprises and improve livelihoods
Microbial biotechnology -old and new- in food production is not only a very important source of value-added food (for taste, storeability, probiotics) worldwide but it also offers good opportunities (i) to expand small to medium-sized enterprises, (ii) to enhance the application of science-based technologies in developing countries and (iii) to improve the livelihoods of a vast sector of the population.
Increase of population numbers calls for expansion of traditional foodstuff production to satisfy the needs in rural villages and urban areas. Upscaling of traditional processes requires the establishment of reproducible parameters - it is not the same to lose a batch of 10 Kg or one of one tonne or more. As has been said before in the discussion, attention must be paid to all steps in the process, the quality of the incoculum being just one of them. [For example, Rosa Rolle's message 55, July 8...Moderator].
In scientific terms, the characterisation and manipulation of microorganisms involves a number of rather amenable techniques which can be handled by small, economically viable setups and in university environments. A virtuous cycle can be developed to involve scientists in developing countries to strongly participate in the creation of comprehensive databases (products, microorganisms, problems, techniques, etc) and well-characterised microorganism collections. These collections can then be the source of commercial innocula for an increasing number of small to medium production centers.
Ideally, innocula would be provided in lyophilised form or any other long-term storage form, the cheaper the better. Following an interactive mode of operation, collections could grow continuosly and novel, intersting traits could be identified and incorporated into commercial products. Commercially interesting inventions (not discoveries) could be patented in developed countries to create sources of additional income, but in general cost recovery would come from commercialisation of innocula and alliances between researchers and producers. This is expected to happen only in very rare cases, the most important product of my train of thoughts here is the creation of a diversified food industry that created jobs and knowledge.
With time, products identified as health-promoting can then be introduced into regions where they were previously unknown, i.e. where there was no tradition in the making of that product. Microorganisms and their by-products can be a very valuable source of micronutrients, which as we know are essential for the proper assimilation of most macronutrients. It would be commendable to identify products able to deliver such micronutrients in the most efficient manner. This might include the transfer of some traits from one microorganism to the other, by whatever technique (this has been done traditionally by conjugation or simple selection).
While at CIAT, I was involved in the characterisation of the microorganisms involved in cassava solid state fermentation for the production of sour starch in Colombia. It turned out that what was thought to be the product of a complex mixture of microorganisms could be achieved using an innoculum of one single strain of Lactobacillus plantarum. The process could not only be made reproducible using the innoculum, making sure that all other bacteria (like those producing longer, bad smelling fatty acids), but it was also shortened by one week to about 18 days. These alone are major points in favor of adopting improved technologies in commercial setups of any size. [The Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) is one of the 15 Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres with its headquarters in Colombia...Moderator].
Dr Jorge E. Mayer
Golden Rice Project Manager
Center for Applied Biosciences
University of Freiburg
Stefan Meier Str 8
D-79104 Freiburg, Germany
jorge.mayer (at) zab.uni-freiburg.de
Ph +49 (761) 203 5022
Fax +49 (761) 203 5021