Author Koray Malci – PhD student at University of Edinburgh
Today, millions of people suffer from starvation and many cannot take important and essential compounds because of insufficient diet. Fortunately, biotechnology brings significant solutions to food problems as a powerful weapon of humanity in the modern era. Currently, we are able to produce foods cheaper, and create high nutritional value foods.
Cheaper Enzymes, Cheaper Foods
Traditionally, enzymes were extracted directly from organisms or indirectly from microbial cultures; e.g. papain enzyme from papaya is used for meat tenderization. However, vegetal enzyme production depends on external factors like climate or animal-derived enzyme production has ethical and shortage concerns. These limitations usually cause high costs for enzyme and food production.
Genetic engineering has been used for designing of microorganisms to produce high yield, multifunctional and low-cost food enzymes. Rennet is normally found in only animals such as calf. However, its natural sources are not sufficient for cheese demand that’s why, rennet is bio engineered to meet the demand.
Fun Flavours and Tantalising Textures
Enzymes are used not only for food production but also to enhance food flavours. Lipase enzyme acts on fats to produce fatty acids via something called ‘hydrolysis’. Various lipases, which come from a different source organism, are used for cheese, beverage, but also oil, butter or margarine production. For example, Romano, Camembert and cheddar cheeses are produced by using lipases which improve their texture and softness. Unilever, has been using many lipases to enhance flavour of their foods.
Golden Rice is really Gold for you
Synthetic biopathways technology allows foods to be produced with an enhanced nutritional value. For example, Vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem in Africa and South East Asia. It causes irreversible blindness amongst young children and also puts pregnant women at higher risk. Children in those countries rely on rice as a staple food, therefore genetic modifications were made to make rice produce vitamin A. By adding beta carotene (vitamin A) to rise, it truly became gold to peoples nutrition system, hence the name Golden rice was coined.
The Future of Food
These latest advances in synthetic biology allow producing better and improved enzymes by putting together biological and engineering approaches. Now, it’s possible that we have standardized, high-qualified, innovative and multifunctional enzyme designing and production. Certainly, this kind of developments will positively affect global food industry in response to greater pressure from climate change.