Guide Food Biotechnology

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On the whole, Bt corn and Bt cotton have improved farm efficiency 11 — A report by the U. Department of Agriculture concludes by saying that even though the benefit and performance of genetically modified crops varies depending on many factors including region and pest infestation levels, the adoption of crops such as Bt cotton in the Southwest and herbicide-tolerant soybeans led to significant increases in net yield, and a significant decrease in the application of insecticide An expansion of the same report by the Economic Research Service investigating same-year differences between average pesticide use of adopting and nonadopting farmers showed that those using genetically modified corn, soybeans and cotton combined used 7.

In the difference increased to almost 17 million fewer acre-treatments by adopters On the other hand, others have concluded that despite a sharp increase in planting Bt corn, the percentage of corn treated with insecticides has remained constant throughout the period 6.

Moreover, some research suggested that Bt corn pollen was harmful to the Monarch butterfly Collaborative research by scientists from universities and research institutions in the US and Canada have concluded that potential risks of Bt corn to Monarchs is low. This is due to the density and time of pollen shed in relation to the period of larvae activity.

Also, the proportion of milkweed plants growing near cornfields and the proportion of fields that are planted with Bt corn are other mitigating factors cited for the low risk to Monarch butterflies Other traits have been added to a variety of crops to defend from biological insults. Tomato, potato, squash and papaya are among a variety of crops that have been modified to resist infection by viruses or insect pests In addition to biotic stressors, plant productivity is influenced by abiotic factors such as herbicides, soil composition, water supply, and temperature.

Background on Food Biotechnology - IFIC Foundation

Therefore, conferring plants with genes that will help them withstand a wider range of environmental conditions could increase productivity. Plants are also being engineered to withstand drought, heat, cold temperatures and poor soil conditions such as salinity and aluminum contamination 19 — Increased total yield of harvest also can be achieved by enhancing efficiencies in the metabolic and photosynthetic pathways.

Examples of pathways that could be improved to increase crop yield include nitrogen assimilation, starch biosynthesis, and modification of photosynthesis 24 — After harvest, time to market is an important economic factor due to the perishability of produce. Changing the rate of ripening would seem to be a benefit to both the farmer, by decreasing post harvest losses, and the consumer by increasing shelf life.

To prevent delivering spoiled fruit, mature tomatoes are harvested while still green and ripened during delivery by exposure to ethylene, a ripening hormone in tomatoes. In the Food and Drug Administration approved a brand of tomato that had a genetic solution to this processing problem The producers of the tomato used antisense technology to silence a gene that produces polygalacturonase, a pectin-degrading enzyme found in ripe tomatoes, thus slowing the ripening process Consumers stand to gain more than just produce with longer shelf lives.

While still in its infancy, the technology is being used to produce plants that will have a whole range of output traits including increased nutritional value, medicinal properties, industrial utility, and novel taste and esthetic appeal. Many of our common food crops could be improved to better meet the nutritional requirements of humans or animals. Protein, starch and oil composition and content as well as micronutrient content can all be improved to make foods and feeds more nutritious. These high-starch potatoes have less moisture and therefore absorb less fat during frying 37 — Enzyme biotechnology also is being used to develop specialty oils containing more favorable fatty acid profiles such as high oleic acid peanut oil We have known for a long time that vitamins and minerals elicit biologic responses and have positive effects on health.

Carotenoids are another class of nutrients that may be associated with decreased risk for certain cancers and macular degeneration. Beta-carotene has already been expressed in a genetically engineered rice cultivar, named Golden Rice, by addition of genes for three enzymes in the phytoene synthase pathway two genes from a daffodil and one from the bacteria Erwinia uredovora This strain was also crossed with a high iron strain of rice to produce a strain with both qualities Golden Rice has been the subject of much attention because it represents the potential of future biotechnology crops to benefit people in developing countries.

This variety of rice could decrease malnutrition and blindness associated with vitamin A deficiency. However, there have been questions raised about the effectiveness of this rice because of the many biological, cultural and dietary barriers that must be overcome These questions will need to be answered as the product is further developed prior to introduction. Other phytonutrients with purported health benefits include glucosinolates, phytoestrogens, and phytosterols. Found in a wide variety of food sources, these compounds could selectively be overexpressed to therapeutic levels In a much different way, biotechnology is poised to completely change another aspect of preventative health care.

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Methods are being developed to produce vaccines in plants by introducing genes that express a protein antigen in crops such as corn, potatoes and bananas. When eaten these antigens elicit an immune response and have been shown to provide protection against a subsequent challenge from pathogens The feasibility of this approach was demonstrated when mice fed transgenic Hepatitis B surface antigen expressed in potato tubers showed a primary immune response by producing antibody specific to the antigen Companies are positioning themselves to become suppliers of a wide range of biotechnology products, including bioactive therapeutic proteins, blood proteins, animal health products, and industrial enzymes.

There are many other possible industrial applications for genetically modified organisms. For example, researchers at the University of Georgia engineered yellow poplar trees to have the ability to extract toxic ionic mercury from soil and convert the toxin to a relatively inert form. The gene was acquired from mercury-resistant bacteria that are soil-borne and thrive at sites polluted with heavy metals.

In one study the engineered plants were capable of ten times the rate of mercury removal as compared to nonengineered plants 2. This is just one example of how phytoremediation, the use of plants to clean or contain contaminated areas, combined with biotechnology is a promisingly efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly technique that could restore soil health and revegetate contaminated waste sites. Clearly, consumer preference is playing a role in the industry's choice of product development. Just as consumers have appreciated seedless oranges and watermelon, the industry is developing other fruiting crops that do not require fertilization to produce seedless fruit.

Novel produce such as seedless tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, strawberries, melons and cherries, to list a few of the possibilities, would be attractive to many consumers. Additionally, these fruits would have improved taste due to increased total soluble sugar compared to seeded fruit and may be of economic value to the processing industry as well Also in development is a sweet protein found naturally in the fruit of the African vine, Pentadiplandra brazzeana. This heat stable protein is times as sweet as sucrose at higher concentration and as much as times as sweet in a two percent by weight solution.

Lacking bitterness, it has a lot of potential as an alternative low energy sweetener It is clear that plant biotechnology has the potential to have a huge affect on tomorrow's society.

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Already over 50 biotechnology crop products have passed the regulatory review process and have been commercialized, ranging from corn and potatoes to tomatoes and squash It is interesting to note that crops modified by biotechnology are the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of agriculture. In only 4. Although products derived from agricultural biotechnology are now common in the U. Trends in consumer awareness and opinions about biotechnology and genetically engineered foods remain a shifting and somewhat controversial area. Polls designed to address similar issues at different times have found different results.

Furthermore, such polls are sensitive to the wording and order of the questions. Perhaps the most telling information extracted from consumer polls are the trends over time, i. Notwithstanding the limitations of the technique, consumer polls remain an important tool in assessing public knowledge and opinion. Evidently, most Americans are unaware of the extent to which crops derived from biotechnology have entered the marketplace.

Even though consumer awareness of biotechnology is moderate, knowledge levels tend to be quite low. Nevertheless, more people are becoming aware of the issue.

Food Biotechnology

Despite the controversy over the safety of eating GM foods, most American consumers seem to trust the food supply. It appears that the safety of eating foods derived from biotechnology is not on most people's minds. When asked an open-ended question regarding what they were most concerned about when it comes to food safety, the majority of consumers stated that they were worried about food handling, bacterial contamination, or pesticide residue issues. There is still a great deal of confusion concerning the basic science of genetics and biotechnology.

Educating the public on these matters might prove to be a challenge as well. Based on perceived consumer concerns, Gerber, Heinz and Frito Lay have made the decision to avoid ingredients that were derived from GM crops In fact, JR Simplot Co, a supplier of potatoes to fast-food chains, says virtually all it's customers don't want GM potatoes Consumer interest is but one of many factors that influences the use of these ingredients in the production, processing, manufacture and distribution of foods and food products.

Industry is concerned over the capability and costs to deliver identity- preserved ingredients, the adequacy of testing methodologies for GM constituents, uncertainties in forecasting supply needs, and increased costs due to shortages of available non-GM ingredients. Safety does not appear to be a significant concern because producers and manufacturers rely on the regulatory system in place to ensure the safety of GM products. The regulatory process for the use of any technology should take into account both the risks and benefits of implementing that technology as well as the consequences of nonimplementation and the viability of alternative technologies.

Biotechnology poses unique challenges to the regulatory process because it is a new tool with the potential to affect a wide spectrum of changes in an equally wide range of products. Therefore, each use of the technology must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Blanket acceptance or rejection of this technology will take years of practical experience. The combination of the regulatory protocols provides coverage over all aspects of plant biotechnology from the laboratory to the farm to the marketplace.

The first step in making a product is at the laboratory research level. The NIH has published a set of guidelines to specify practices for working with recombinant DNA and organisms and viruses containing recombinant DNA to promote a high level of biosafety. These guidelines are widely accepted and followed, even by institutions that do not receive NIH funding. Under the guidelines, institutions that conduct this type of research must set up an Institution Biosafety Committee IBC that is composed of experts in various fields relating to the subject matter and are encouraged to open their meetings to the public.

The IBC is responsible for all the guidelines set forth by the NIH and must approve a project either before or during initiation, depending of the nature of the project and is keenly aware of pathogenicity and containment issues Crop developers must file a notification for permission to import, grow, or move through state lines any genetically engineered plants.

The species of the crop must already be considered safe for growth. The introduced genetic material must be stable. The function of the new genetic material must be known, and its expression in the regulated article cannot result in plant disease, produce products intended for pharmaceutical use, produce an infectious entity, or be toxic to a nontarget organism.

In addition, the added sequence cannot pose a risk of creating any new viruses or be derived from any animal or human pathogen If approved, the organism can only be grown with proper containment for data collection purposes and must be destroyed afterwards. Public input is invited at this stage.

If found genetically stable and there is no finding of environmental concerns, the USDA grants a permit and no longer regulates the crop Therefore, the EPA becomes involved in the review of biotechnology-derived crops when they are altered to produce a pesticide plant-incorporated protectant or PIP. To register PIPs for commercial use with the EPA, the developer must submit an extensive amount of data concerning the toxicity, biodegradability, environmental effect, and effects on nontarget organisms.

Public comment is invited throughout each stage of this process via publication in the Federal Register. Under FIFRA, the EPA must review all data concerning the ecological, human, and animal health effects from the use of the PIP to certify that there will be no unreasonable adverse human or ecological effects. It is then the role of the FDA to enforce the tolerance level in foods postproduction.

Regarding the first, during recent years considerable progress have been done in many countries around the globe aimed at enhancing the teaching in these subjects and, at the same time, encouraging the use of computers in classrooms. On the contrary, training in biotechnology is absent in many secondary schools of the planet. This formative deficiency generates citizens whose opinion on the marketing of biotechnological products is easily manipulated by both defenders and opposers of biotechnology. An important aspect of the survey is that food safety and labeling concerns are solicited from consumers on an open ended basis, thereby allowing consumers to volunteer unprompted, top-of-mind concerns.

On an open-ended basis, only one percent name biotechnology as a labeling issue. A majority of consumers state that there is no information that they would like to see added to food labels. Food biotechnology meets with greater concern in some other world regions. Improved access to science-based, consumer-focused information about biotechnology is important in order to ensure that the global community realizes the benefits.

Food Science (Food Biotechnology) MSc

Three federal agencies share the regulatory oversight of biotechnology in the United States. Regulation is coordinated among the U. Throughout the regulatory process, each agency provides several opportunities for public comment. BRS assesses agricultural and environmental safety of newly developed varieties during field-testing and prior to commercialization.


The EPA regulates the safe use of pesticides in agriculture, including pest-protection properties of plants developed using biotechnology. Therefore, EPA oversees field testing, as well as sale and distribution, of such crops in order to ensure safety for the environment and human health. FDA has primary responsibility for ensuring safety and appropriate labeling of plant-derived foods and feed, including those developed using biotechnology. Developers of bioengineered foods consult with FDA on a voluntary basis prior to commercialization. During a consultation, FDA evaluates safety and nutritional information provided by the developer, including information on the food safety of any newly expressed compounds, and any changes in the levels of important nutrients, endogenous allergens, and natural toxicants.

FDA considers a consultation complete once all safety and regulatory issues have been addressed. FDA does not require labeling to indicate whether a food or food ingredient is a bioengineered product, just as it does not require labeling to indicate which conventional breeding techniques were used in developing a food plant.

Bon Appette! Food Biotechnology Secrets Exposed

Rather, any significant differences in the food itself have to be disclosed on the label. Regulation of meat, dairy, and eggs produced through biotechnology is in development. There is strong indication, as of , that regulation will be handled differently for foods derived from cloned versus genetically engineered animals. Biotechnology is making a significant impact on food production, with great potential for future advancements. A strong regulatory system is in place in the U.

Public debate continues, as with any new technology. Of course, consumers want to know what biotechnology will mean for the food we eat. Crop Biotechnology There are three main categories of biotechnology-enhanced crops in use or development.