Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Future impact of biotechnology in agriculture and food processing

The study assessed the impact of biotechnology on the agri-food sector in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Greece using the Delphi approach (ie experts answer questionnaires whereby the results of the first round are presented in the questionnaire of the second round). Over 1750 experts participated in the first round which embraced a questionnaire with 71 statements of possible future 'visions' in agriculture and the food sector, while 1200 experts participated in the follow-up round.

The results to date indicate a rather broad application of modern biotechnology in the food industry until the end of the next decade. This includes the major use of recombinant enzymes in food processing, or the production of beer with genetically engineered yeast. In addition, genetically engineered microorganisms and enzyme systems will be widely used to improve the processing quality of food. This involves sequencing of the genomes of important bacterial strains, and the development of genetically engineered microorganisms, which can be precisely controlled and regulated in their metabolic activities during food processing.

The German experts tended to be the most critical among the countries involved and a highly polarized answering behaviour was registered between five German expert groups. The extremes represented the experts from industry and research institutions on the one hand, and consumers and critics on the other. The answering behaviour of the farmers was between these, with clear tendencies towards the consumer/critics cluster. The biggest differences between the five expert groups in Germany were found in statements dealing with the application of enzymes in the food industry which are produced or optimized with the help of modern biotechnology. In general, industry and research experts tended to assess such a development as positive whereas most of the experts from the farmer, consumer and critics side were more sceptical or rejected such a development.

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