Biotechnology in the Agricultural Industry
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CTA. 1986. Biotechnology in the Agricultural Industry. Spore 5. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44517
Biotechnology in the Agricultural Industry [booklet]
Every so often a new catchword appears, claiming attention and provoking reaction. Recent examples include 'integrated rural development', 'food strategies', 'agroforestry' etc. Why has 'biotechnology' lately become a catchword? The CTA has shown a great interest in this question and has cosponsored the publication of an English edition of a booklet on this subject: 'Biotechnology in the Agricultural Industry'. This document is published by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry of West Germany who produced the original issue in German. In such cases as biotechnology, CTA does not simply respond to the information needs of ACP countries. It also informs them on the latest scientific advances in various ways and publications. In both developed and developing countries there are numerous people who believe that biotechnology holds the magic key to a breakthrough comparable to computers and microelectronics, and that it will play a very important role in the economic development of develocing countries. The use of biotechnology in the preparation of food, beverages and other agricultural products is nothing new. Our distant ancestors have made use of it in the preparation of indigenous food fermentations resulting in soya sauce, yeast, yoghurt and various sauces and pastes. Very recent advances in the biosciences (molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, biological process engineering) offer the possibility of utilizing these sciences more effectively. The term biotechnology implies the control and utilisation of biological systems for the production of specific substances. In the agricultural and food industries the biotechnological techniques commonly utilised are cell and tissue culture, genetic engineering and bioconversion and enzyme technology. Cell and tissue culture engineering is based on in vitro culture and the growth or reproduction of isolated cells or tissues in suitable nutritive media. It is possible to create whole organisms out of single cells and tissues. Such plants are also free from pathogens and diseases as they are grown under special conditions and therefore suitable for movement from country to country without the risk of transmitting diseases. Genetic engineering involves the modification, at the genetic level, of micro-organisms, plants and animals. It offers great opportunities for plant and animal improvements but it is also subject to intensive public discussion about the implied dangers, especially in the area of human genetics. Bioconversion technology is based on the use of micro-organisms or isolated enzymes to convert substances into a form that can be used directly or be stored for longer periods without the risk of deterioration. It offers possibilities for large scale use in the agricultural and food sector.