SUMMARY CONFERENCE 11
Conference 11 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture was entitled "Biotechnology
applications in food processing: can developing countries benefit?". It ran from 14 June to 15 July 2004.
The Summary Document of the conference
(9 pages) provides a summary of the main arguments and concerns discussed during the conference.
Biotechnology in food processing includes numerous traditional methods for making fermented foods and beverages such
as bread, cheese, yogurt and wine. Many fermented food products are integral, nutritious components of diets around
the globe and also generate income. A wealth of information was contributed to this conference on traditional fermented
foods and beverages, particularly from West Africa and India. The importance of documenting this information was
highlighted and it was noted that considerable work remains to be done in the documentation, characterisation and
basic research of these traditional products and processes. The issues of control and variable quality of traditional
fermentation processes were raised, and the use of well designed starter cultures was recommended. There was discussion
of the merits and demerits of scaling up production processes through increased commercialisation and industrialisation.
Potential loss of important food characteristics through standardisation of production processes was also addressed.
It was suggested that there was potential for small-scale rural-based commercialisation that would build local capacity
and ensure that the benefits from increased production were retained by the local communities in developing countries.
It was recognised that modern biotechnologies, such as use of molecular typing to characterise microorganisms, could
be successfully applied to traditional fermentation processes to improve understanding of these processes and improve
product quality and consistency. However, potentially useful biotechnologies require adequate funds and education to
be used effectively. There is a need for capacity building and to better integrate biotechnology in the food science
and technology curricula of higher institutes of learning in developing countries. These were some of the main issues
and outcomes of a moderated e-mail conference, entitled "Biotechnology applications in food processing: can developing
countries benefit?" hosted by the FAO Biotechology Forum from 14 June to 15 July 2004. Over 400 people subscribed to the conference and 68 messages were posted by
38 participants from 19 countries, with over 70% of the messages coming from people living in developing countries.
the entire Summary Document of this conference.