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-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 10 June 2009 10:25
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 1. Food fermentation - Cassava

My name is Dele Raheem, a food scientist and consultant based in the United Kingdom with special interest in African and developing countries.

Firstly, I will like to thank the organizers of this email-conference that enable us to take stock of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last twenty years.

I will address the issue of "Food Fermentation" which is an old tradition and will continue to be relevant in our societies. In many developing countries, fermentation is common at village levels, the microorganisms are spontaneous and they are applied in most cases to traditionally produced foods. There has been a significant interest in the last twenty years to identify and isolate these microorganisms.

As stated in the Background Document: "Certain microorganisms associated with fermented foods in particular strains of Lactobacillus species are probiotic i.e used as live microbial dietary supplements of food ingredients that have a beneficial effect on the host by influencing the composition and/or metabolic activity of the flora of the gastrointestinal tract (Ruane and Sonnino, 2006b)". Research findings on the role of these microorganisms will lead to more novel products or new food ingredients.

Many developing countries, especially where cold storage is lacking, rely on food fermentation to preserve foods. Lactic acid bacteria, play a major part in most fermentation processes, improving flavour, aroma and having a preservative effect on foods.

For example, Cassava (Manihot esculenta, Crantz) is a staple food to millions of Africans. The current efforts on the Integrated Cassava Project by the Nigerian government with collaboration from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to diversify the utilization of this crop is laudable (www.cassavabiz.org). Such efforts need to be intensified and shared with other African countries. This project has been partially successful. There are other promising aspects that will will extend the utilization of cassava industrially:

- Cassava starch and roots were used to produce dried yeast and alcohol industrially in Malaysia. A volume of 100 litres of absolute alcohol was obtained per tonne of cassava.
- The production of L-lactic acid from cassava starch in a bioreactor using Aspergillus awamori and Lactobacillus lactis spp. lactis was demonstrated (Roble et. al. 2003).
- It was also shown that cassava dregs can be employed for the production of phytase after the addition of a nitrogen source and mineral salt (Hong et. al. 2001). [Phytase is an enzyme important in animal feed...Moderator].
- Other useful by-product is cassava peels which can be used to make activated carbon that are efficient as adsorbents for dyes and metal ions (Rajeshwarisivaraj et al. 2001)

These relevant research findings demonstrate the benefits of microorganisms in fermented foods in developing countries and they need to be commercialized at an appropriate level. This calls for the necessary inputs by all stakeholders in establishing cottage industries for fermented foods and useful by-products.

Hong, K., Ma, Y. and Li, M. 2001. Solid state fermentation of phytase from cassava dregs. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 91, 777-785
Roble, N.D., Ogbonna, J.C. and Tanaka, H. 2003. L-lactic acid production from cassava starch in a circulating loop bioreactor with cells immobilized in loofa (Luffa cylindrical). Biotechnology Letters, 25 (13):1093 - 1098.
Rajeshwarisivaraj, S. Sivakumar, P. Senthilkumar and V. Subburam. 2001. Carbon from cassava peel, an agricultural waste as an adsorbent in the removal of dyes and metal ions from aqueous solution. Bioresource Technology, 80 (3):233-235

Dr. Dele Raheem
2 Broadholme Street,

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 10 June 2009 14:05
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 2. Bt cotton and MAS for crop improvement in India

I am Professor PK Gupta, Professor Emeritus at the Choudhury Charan Singh (CCS) University, Meerut, India. For the last 14 years, I have been involved in developing molecular markers (mainly SSR [simple sequence repeat] and AFLP [amplified fragment length polymorphism]) for marker-assisted selection (MAS) in bread-wheat.

In India, some success has been achieved in two major aspects of the application of biotechnology for crop improvement. These two areas include the following: (i) development and use of GM crops; and (ii) development and use of DNA-based markers for MAS in crop improvement programmes.

The major success in using GM crops in India is the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, which steadily increased, so that currently almost 80% of the cotton area in India is occupied by Bt cotton. In addition, Bt brinjal has been approved for large-scale seed multiplication and it is hoped that Bt brinjal will reach the farmers' fields within the next one year. This has and will bring about major benefit to the farmers, despite the opposition by many NGOs (non-government organizations) against growing GM crops.

The other area of successful use of biotechnology is the use of MAS for developing the following:

(i) superior hybrids of pearl-millet and quality protein maize (QPM)
(ii) two varieties of rice with pyramided genes for resistance against bacterial blight (improved pusa basmati, with bacterial blight resistance genes, xa5+xa13+Xa21; Improved Sambha Mahshuri, with bacterial blight resistance genes xa5, xa13, Xa21)
(iii) several varieties of rice, which are tolerant to submergence, namely Swarna, IR64, CR1009, BR11, TDK1, Samba Mahsuri (these are under field trials in India and Bangladesh)
(iv) several wheat cultivars with high grain protein content (GPC) and resistance against leaf rust (using pyramiding of Lr genes), pre-harvest sprouting (these will soon undergo field trials).

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India has also initiated a Grand Challenge Programme to support meaningful programmes involving crop improvement through MAS (several projects are in the final stage of approval under this programme.

However the pace of success has been slow for the following reasons: (i) there is still opposition against GM crops and therefore there have been court cases and disapprovals by the regulatory authorities, thus slowing down the work in this area and making this exercise rather expensive. This has discouraged many to undertake work for the development of GM crops.

The reasons for slow pace of work in the use of molecular markers are different and involve lack of expertise and motivation with those involved in breeding, and lack of cooperation between molecular biologists and plant breeders. The economics involving the use of marker technology in plant breeding (relative to conventional plant breeding) is another reason for not adopting this technology.

Professor P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Choudhury Charan Singh University (Meerut University)
Meerut 250004
Telephone: 91-121-2762505
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com

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