[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: 25 June 2004 16:29
Subject: 30: Questions raised in the Background Document
I am Olayinka Edema from Nigeria. I teach at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. My field of specialization is food and applied microbiology.
I'd like to contribute to this conference by attempting to answer some of the questions raised in the Background Document.Starting from the title: Yes, developing countries can benefit immensely from biotechnology applications in food processing, but it must come gradually, with some caution and whether we like it or not, it will be to an extent.
Addressing the question raised in the Background Document under Section 3.1
Socio-economic and cultural factors: - "How will applications of
biotechnology to fermented foods impact on these socio-economic and cultural
The efficiencies of the production processes will improve, food qualities will become consistent and the entire fermentation processes will be controlled. However, I believe that the improvement with regard to shelf-life may not be entirely without problems. Attempts at improving shelf-lives of African fermented foods end up changing the taste and flavour of the products. For example, bottled and pasteurized palm wine lacks the uniqueness of the fresh, un-bottled palm sap, which is attributed to the fact that the yeasts are alive and well, making the wine bubble and rich. Also, attempts at extending the shelf stability of uncooked fufu paste by drying it into powder, removes the volatile acids and flavour compounds thereby eliminating the unique taste. It also results in a very low shelf-life in the reconstituted and gelatinized food product which moulds faster than the gelatinized wet paste that retains most of the important volatile compounds. In this regard, my suggestion is that biotechnological applications should focus on new products' development (I have been working at developing starter cultures for a bread speciality from maize, an indigenous cereal, based on the sour dough technology. The product is being developed along with the starter cultures to avoid running into the problems of inconsistent quality already present in traditional African fermented foods) and should be applied to existing locally fermented foods in areas where the products will not be modified in any way such as aspects of process optimization and improvement of hygiene.
For "3.2 Infrastructure and logistical factors":
Taking Nigeria as a case study, even in urban areas, electric power supplies are erratic, most of the materials required for biotechnological research are not available locally and are therefore largely imported. Nigeria imports the bulk of its manufacturing machinery and components used in assembly plants, agricultural raw materials for manufacturing as well as all the intermediate inputs required in industry such as chemicals, dyestuffs, soft-drink concentrates, barley malt, wheat flour and citrus fruit concentrates. Within the last two years in Nigeria, importation increased about 26%, putting more strain on the already ailing economy. This has resulted in an increase in inflation much more than increase in population. In the last few years, profit margins have been dropping for producers because they cannot increase prices as much as the costs of imported raw materials increase. For these reasons, it may be difficult to upgrade existing fermentation technologies. It may not be feasible to target arrangements for starter culture development at improving traditional fermentation technologies because attempts at using starter cultures for locally fermented foods usually result in products with different properties particularly in sensory attributes.
For "3.3 On nutrition and food safety":
I am of the opinion that the nutritional characteristics (and safety aspects) of most of the fermented foods in Africa are adequately documented and appreciated in developing countries although more can still be done.
For "3.4 Intellectual property rights (IPRs) - Are the research results from
developing countries adequately documented? Who owns this information? Are
cell banks being developed to protect microbial strains characterised in
Research results are documented but the adequacy of the documentation is doubtful. There are no cell banks and in fact there are problems with diffusion of research information.
For "3.5 Commercial opportunities":
To all the questions in this section, I say yes. However, I tend to agree with Prof Hofman in message 7 (June 17). I doubt that industrialization will work in Africa, however small scale commercialization is desirable and will likely fare better in such environment.
Dr. Olayinka Edema
College of Natural Sciences,
University of Agriculture,
moedemao (at) yahoo.co.uk
[Fufu is a traditional fermented cassava product...Moderator].