Of late, biotechnology is fast becoming an integral part of human existence. A multidisciplinary science with a foundation in many fields including cell and molecular biology, physiology, immunology, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, and chemical engineering, application of biotechnology is revolutionising the fields of agriculture and the food industry.
Over the years, biotechnology helped evolve newer and viable methods of production of various food items and improved their quality by adding more nutritional value. The changing aspect of food via biotechnology is called food biotechnology.
Biotechnology is part of applied biology, which can be defined as using living organisms or their products for commercial purposes. Rayan Benthencourt, a famous American scientist, says, “Our world is built on biology and once we begin to understand it, it then becomes technology.”
The history of biotechnology dates back to ancient times starting from 1150 AD when wine production started. Later in the 14th century, vinegar was manufactured, fermentation of yeast was done in 1818, fermentation enzymes were detected in 1897, and penicillin was discovered in 1928 and 1929. But Biotechnology rose to its peak when humans discovered the recombinant DNA technique and of various vaccines for life-threatening diseases and their uses in the food and beverage industry.
How biotechnology is used in the food and beverage industry?
“Feeding the world will be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. It will be impossible without using scientific advancements and biotechnology,” said Mike Pompeo, an American politician.
We cannot imagine our lives without technology and in today’s scenario “Biotechnology” is what the world needs.
According to Prof. SR Kale of Department of Food Microbiology and Safety and KK Wagh of the Department of Food and Technology, Nasik, the main objectives of biotechnology in the food and food processing sector are to improve the processing, control, yielding, and efficiency, as well as the quality, safety, and consistency of bio-processed products.
Following are the examples of the biotechnologically processed items:
Yeast or microscopic single-cell fungi that help in the fermentation of grape juice by converting them into ethanol, carbon dioxide, and other end products that contribute to the chemical composition and taste of wine.
In the process of making bread, fermentation takes place when the dough is rising in a high-temperature oven. During this time, the fermented sugar that is naturally present in flour is converted into glucose, which is then fermented by yeast to create carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Yogurt is a milk product made by using bacterial culture. It is originated from the West Asia and Eastern Europe and now is eaten all over the world. In the process of making yogurt, whole or skimmed milk is fermented by harmless lactic acid bacteria, like lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. These bacteria ferment the lactose, producing lactic acid, which curdles the milk and gives yogurt its characteristic tangy taste and texture.
It is a recently invented dairy product containing extra bacteria that are not found naturally in the digestive system. It is milder and premier than conventional yogurt.
As we all know cheese is one of the major products of food biotechnology. Making different cheeses by fermentation is very common. Different flavours and textures are improved with the help of microorganisms. Apart from the normal process of yogurt making, another important player in cheese making is the enzyme named chymosin or rennin, which is required to set or ready the milk for the process to occur. Nowadays vegetarian cheese is also available and is made from genetic modification.
Monitoring and controlling milk quality
In any industrial process, the quality of raw materials is critical to determining the quality of the product. The raw material of dairy fermentation is, of course, milk, and, being a biological secretion of high nutritional potential, it is subject to spoilage, principally by contaminating bacteria from the cow’s environment.
The reduction of the root cause of milk’s potential to be spoiled has not been a target of biotechnological interest, rather is one of husbandry, antisepsis, and engineering. However, there have been developments in enzyme technology and nucleic acid technology which are relevant to the monitoring and controlling of milk contamination by bacteria and pathogens.
Fruit and vegetable juices
The application of biotechnology in making fruit and vegetable juices is very common as it helps suppress and increase various flavours and textures of the juices. Certain citrus fruits which have bitter flavour can be eliminated with the help of microbial actions. It helps in increase the yield and improve quantity.
Biotechnology is not only used in the making of different products via fermentation but also helps in improving the nutritional value of different food products.
Transgenic crops like soyabean which has higher protein content and potatoes with higher starch content and different amino acids and rice which has the ability to produce beta carotene improves the quality of food and provides better nutrition in less quantity.
Speaking to The Statesman correspondent, Vipasha Thakur Research scholar, Department of Biotechnology, Panjab University, said that the potential benefits of biotechnology are enormous. Food producers can use new biotechnology to produce newer products with desirable characteristics, including disease and drought-resistant plants, leaner meat, enhanced flavours, and addition to nutritional qualities of the food products.
This technology has also been used for the development of life-saving vaccines, insulin, cancer treatment, and other pharmaceuticals to improve quality of life.
She added that with the population growing by the day there will be more difficulties in providing food to people with proper quality and quantity. But with the help of biotechnology, we can expect to have better and more food in the coming years.