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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Biotechnology in food processing- Issues Relevant to Developing Countries

Application of biotechnology to food processing in developing countries is an issue of debate and discussions for a long time. Biotechnological research as applied to bioprocessing in the majority of developing countries, targets development and improvement of traditional fermentation processes. However there are a few issues which need to be discussed in developing countries while using the technology for various applications.

1. Socio-economic and cultural factors
Traditional fermentation processes employed in most developing countries are low input, appropriate food processing technologies with minimal investment requirements. These processes are, however, often uncontrolled, unhygienic and inefficient and generally result in products of variable quality and short shelf lives. Fermented foods, nevertheless, find wide consumer acceptance in developing countries and contribute substantially to food security and nutrition. How will applications of biotechnology to fermented foods impact on these socio-economic and cultural factors?

2. Infrastructural and logistical factors
Physical infrastructural requirements for the manufacture, distribution and storage (e.g. by refrigeration) of microbial cultures or enzymes on a continuous basis is generally available in urban areas of many developing countries. However, this is not the case in most rural areas of developing countries. Should research be oriented to ensure that individuals at all levels can benefit from applications of biotechnology in food fermentation processes? What is required for the level of fermentation technologies and process controls to be upgraded in order to increase efficiency, yields and the quality and safety of fermented foods in developing countries?

3. Nutrition and food safety
Fermentation processes enhance the nutritional value of foods through the biosynthesis of vitamins, essential amino acids and proteins, through improving protein and fibre digestibility; enhancing micronutrient bioavailability and degrading anti-nutritional factors.

Are the nutritional characteristics (and safety aspects) of fermented foods adequately documented and appreciated in developing countries? Is there a need for consumer education about the benefits of fermented foods?

4. Intellectual property rights (IPRs)
The processes used in the more advanced areas of agricultural biotechnology tend to be covered by IPRs This applies also to biotechnology processes used in food processing. On the other hand, many of the traditional fermentation processes applied in developing countries are based on traditional knowledge.

How should food scientists, researchers, industry associations and participants and governments in developing countries approach these issues?

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