Introduction to Food Biotechnology and Its Application

Food biotechnology integrates biochemistry, chemistry, microbiology, and chemical engineering for the enhance dproduction of food products. Understanding how genes coordinate growth and development of a living being is of great importance in many areas of science and technology. And this knowledge is applied in the field of food science and technology for either enhancing the production of food or for enhancing the properties of food for better processing, better shelf life or better functional properties. Scientific innovation in biotechnology is having high potential for meeting the food needs of a growing world population and for protecting human health through novel strategies to improve the nutritional qualities of plant crops. Genomic sciences assist both “classical” and transgenic approaches to improve crops. These technologies can also impact areas such as food quality and safety.

Genetic engineering involves taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to transfer a desired trait or character. Scientists have introduced genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, or even humans into plants. Crops resistant to pests or weeds, more tolerant to salt or drought, or that produce foods that are tastier or more nutritious have been genetically engineered. Plants have been also modified to produce specific compounds, such as industrial oils, plastics, enzymes, and even drugs and vaccines.


Some of the application of biotechnology in food
Molecular Design of Soybean Proteins for Enhanced Food Quality

Soybeans could serve as a major source of proteins for the world’s growing population. Soybean proteins have excellent physiological properties, are cheap, and can be produced in large quantities. Physico-chemical properties of soybean such as gelation, emulsification, foaming, and water absorption properties and are determined by structural features of soybean proteins. Thus, the physicochemical properties unique to soybean make it possible to produce traditional foods such as tofu and  koori-tofu from soybeans, and to use soybean proteins as a modifier for chilled food and sausage. Their physicochemical and functional properties can be improved by protein engineering which  provides a means to improve the properties of soybean proteins by modifying their primary structures through gene manipulation. But, the ultimate objective is to develop crops in which high quality protein is accumulated.


Genetic Modification of Plant Starches for Food Applications

Starch is a unique natural material, valued for its uses in food, feed, and industry. By the use of knowledge of genetic engineering, we have learnt much about how starch is synthesized in crop plants. With the application of such science variants of crops with customized starch properties are already commercially exploited. For example, variants that accumulate less starch and more sugar (e.g., sweet peas, sweet corn, sweet potato) and others that cook to form clear sols rather than opaque gels (e.g., waxy corn, waxy rice, waxy wheat) and yet others that are useful industrially (e.g., amylose extender corn), and finally others valued for imparting stickiness when cooked (e.g., indica vs. japonica rice). 


Genetic Modification of Plant Oils for Food Uses

By the application of biotechnology we can modify low added value, high volume commodity oil market as well as the low volume, high added value specialty oil market. This technology can manipulate relative abundance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in seed oils by manipulating existing biosynthetic pathways could result in oils that have desired health and functional properties without hydrogenation, fractionation, or other modifications. Adding new pathways for the synthesis of conjugated or long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids represents a new direction for food oil biotechnology, and could result in lower cost, higher quality replacements for fish and microbial oils as health promoting food ingredients.


Nutraceutical Enrichment of Food Crops

Plants synthesize and accumulate an astonishingly diverse array of vitamins, and nutraceuticals that have health- promoting properties. The mineral and vitamin content of food crops should be considered at the same time with its bioavailability. The total content, or absolute concentration, of a given nutrient in a food is not always a reliable indicator of its useful nutritional quality, because not all of the nutrients in food are absorbed. The bioavailability of normal micronutrients from plant sources ranges from less than 5% for some minerals such as calcium and iron, over 90% for sodium and potassium. Plant mineral and vitamin concentrations vary among plant sources (i.e., species, cultivars) and within plant tissues (i.e., leafy structures against seeds); thereby demonstrating the existence of genetic variability, which can contribute to the plant’s ability to acquire, sequester, synthesize, and accumulate  micronutrients. Through genetic manipulation, nutrient value can be increased by modifying chemical forms of the stored micronutrient, removing (or reducing the level of) anti-nutritional compounds, or elevating the amount of promoter substances.

Genetic Modification of Production Traits in Farm Animals

Genetic manipulation of productivity traits in farm animals is one of the most potential applications of biotechnology.  The advantages include stimulation of growth rate; increased efficiency of animal production; development of new or improved meat, milk, and fiber products; enhanced resistance to diseases; and reducing environmental pollution. Other advantages includes, increase milk production, increase meat production and increase in egg production. 


Genetic manipulation to enhance the application of food microbiology

Improvement of microbial strains for increased production of amino acids, citric acids, enzymes and other compounds. Through genetic manipulation of microbes, biopolymers with specific prosperities are being manufactured. Applying molecular engineering principles and tools to the production of food ingredients by bacteria has resulted in the efficient production of both native and totally novel products by several cultures, including strains of lactic acid bacteria. (LAB), Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Corynebacterium glutamicum. Through this engineering, there is modification of central metabolic pathways, biosynthetic pathways, and transport systems involved in producing amino acids, organic acids, vitamins, carbohydrates, bacteriocins, low calorie sugars, and aroma compounds.



Food biotechnology l 2006 l Kalidas Shetty, Gopinadhan Paliyath, Anthony Pometto, Robert E. Levin l CRC Press 


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Comment by Sanjeev Sharma on May 4, 2012 at 7:29pm

Hi Gajanan, 

GMO is not allowed in India. 

Comment by Gajanan S. Chandwade on May 4, 2012 at 7:01pm

I would like to know, is GMO allowed in India.

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