[For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and
Agriculture see Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 23 June 2004 08:59
Subject: 24: Re: Appropriate biotechnology? - Sri Lanka
I am Dr. Mrinal Kumar Sharma, a veterinarian with some exposure to biochemistry at the graduate level. I'm working in the private sector as a scientist in Delhi, India.
Like Asitha Punchihewa has mentioned (Message 23, June 22), biotechnology has been a practise in almost all communities in this world and, more often than not, the applications have also been for domestic consumption and sustainability rather than as a business venture. But modern biotechnology is characterised by a more refined version of those very practices. It is characterised by repeatability in its products characteristics. All properties, or most of them pertaining to the products, are consistent and reproducible. For instance, dairy ferments and country liquor would be allowed to be acted upon by a group of cultures which were wild in nature. Inoculum for the next batch would usually consist of remains from the previous batch. It obviously follows that the cultures have not been well characterised. Perhaps many of these practices are not yet documented let alone characterised.
In the North Eastern part of our country, among the tribal communities, there are a number of such products that are consumed regularly. Similar products are consumed in particular ethnic groups of Bangladesh too. The traditional fish preparation IROMBA of the Manipur State is a fermented delicacy prepared from small varieties of fish. These fish are anaerobically fermented in earthen pots and keep good for months together without any preservatives once dried. Another traditional delicacy is the fermented bamboo-shoot preparation which is savoured all over this part of the country. Other popular fermented products are also there and interestingly, newer ones are emerging from time to time. These processing methodologies make the food richer and more desirable. Besides, it adds to the storage life and prevents food wastage.
In my opinion there is nothing called appropriate or inappropriate biotechnology. Mainly owing to its dynamic nature, the realms of biotechnology cannot be restricted by a definition. An environmentalist's concern for an unbridled exploitation of products is not misplaced. However, the concern here is not the technologies but their management and application. Once in the hands of good managers and under the gambit of well defined regulations, these might as well be the only solution to meet the increasing hunger of the exploding population of the developing nations. Biotechnology applied to food processing actually adds to the volume of already produced food by reducing wastes and even incorporation of other items of food which would not have been consumed in normal circumstances (the case of Bamboo shoots).
I wish biotechnology could go on and on to bring us newer and better products that expand our food base and bring health and prosperity to all.
Dr. Mrinal Kumar Sharma,
22, Site - IV,
Ghaziabad - 201 010 (UP)
Tel: 0120-2959754. (O)
mrinals (at) DABUR.com
[Note, when participants write in general terms about "biotechnology" (as in
messages 23 and 24), they should keep in mind one of the points made in the
Opening message to the conference (posted on 11 June) i.e.
"vii) As those who have participated in previous Forum conferences will be aware (and as mentioned in the Background Document to the conference), the term "biotechnology" is used in this Forum to cover a wide range of diverse technologies including, for example, the use of molecular markers, genetic modification (transgenics), genomics, protein engineering, etc. etc. Some people, however, use the term "biotechnology" to mean genetic modification alone. To avoid potential confusion on this point, if participants wish to refer specifically to genetic modification or genetic engineering, we ask that they use either of these terms and avoid using the term biotechnology in this context"...Moderator].
Sent: 23 June 2004 09:17
Subject: 25: Re: Monosodium glutamate
This is Patrick Gurgel. I work for a biotechnology company in the US, but am originally from Brazil, where I got my basic education as a Food Engineer, concentrating on food biotechnology (fermentation and downstream processing).
I would like to make a comment on message 22, June 22, from EM Muralidaran.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been used as a flavor enhancer for a long time. It is regarded as safe for most individuals, but a report from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in 1995 listed two groups that are at risk when ingesting large amounts of MSG. They are people that have intolerance to MSG or have severe and poorly controlled asthma. The report also mentions that 0.5 to 2.5 grams of MSG is needed to produce a response in these individuals. A normal "serving" of MSG used as flavor enhancer is less than 0.5 grams.
I hope this information helps.
pvgurgel (at) ncsu.edu
Sent: 23 June 2004 09:49
Subject: 26: Genetically modified products
I am K.K. Vinod from India. I am basically a plant breeder and a food biotechnology enthusiast.
I have been watching the messages flowing from different parts of the world on food processing biotechnology and not much has seen on the theme of the Conference "Biotechnology applications in food processing: Can developing countries benefit?".
In this modern era of emerging technologies especially in genetically modifying organisms (GMOs) to produce or do whatever the scientist feel it should also do other than its natural makeup, the greatest concern in the people of developing countries are:- Will these technologies be sustainable to the fragile environment and society in developing countries?
I am not a campaigner against GM food, but I feel more concentration should be done by the public sector researchers of both developed and developing countries to safeguard the peoples interest of the developing nations. I do not feel the private companies may do much in these lines (but they may write and publicize a lot) and their interest will be in making more money out of what they invest.Now, I have been so far talking only on generalized issues and there are so many of them, ethical, social and economic. My concern here is:
I feel my thoughts (I tried to be very abstract) may evoke some more messages in these lines. And I do not know whether I have expressed all of my thoughts too.
Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics,
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University,
E-mail: kkvinod (at) myrealbox.com
[Note, the topic of this e-mail conference is the application of biotechnology to the processing of food (including beverages) produced by the crop, fishery and livestock sectors in developing countries. It does not cover development of GM crops, safety/environmental impacts of GM crops etc. etc. These issues have been covered in some of the 10 e-mail conferences previously hosted by this Forum over the last 4 years. The Background Document (http://www.fao.org/biotech/C11doc.htm) includes a clear description of the topic of this conference i.e. "the application of biotechnology to the processing of food (including beverages) produced from agriculture. This e-mail conference discusses biotechnological tools and options that are applicable to the study and improvement of microorganisms which offer potential for improving the quality, safety and consistency of fermented foods; improving efficiency in the production of fermented foods, food ingredients, food additives and food processing aids (enzymes); diversifying the outputs of fermentation processes and, finally, improving diagnostic and identification systems applicable to foods. Applications of biotechnology to plants or animals to improve their food processing properties (e.g. development of the Flavr Savr tomato variety, genetically modified to reduce its ripening rate) or to produce proteins from genetically modified (GM) microorganisms to improve plant or animal production (e.g. production of bovine somatotropin (BST), a hormone increasing milk production in dairy cows, by GM bacteria) are not considered here. Finally, the conference topic covers applications of biotechnology to processing of food and not to processing of non-food agricultural products (e.g. timber) or to applying biotechnology to microorganisms for environmental purposes (bioremediation, biofuels etc.)...Moderator].