Natural Products Insider

MAR-APR 2019

INSIDER is the leading information source for marketers, manufacturers and formulators of dietary supplements, healthy foods and cosmeceuticals. Since 1997, INSIDER has been serving the needs of the global nutrition industry.

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76 INSIDER March/April 2019 Natural products are no stranger to scientifi c ingenuity. Picture chia seeds perfectly suspended throughout a ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage; capsule-in-capsule supplement technology; or a nondairy frozen dessert that hits the right notes for taste, texture and clean label appeal. The use of biotechnology in the industry is more nebulous. Marcel Wubbolts, chief technology offi cer at Corbion, noted many defi nitions exist for biotechnology. The one his company most uses is from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is also the basis for that of EuropaBio, an industry organization covering industrial, medical and plant biotechnology. OECD defi nes biotech as: "The application of science and technology to living organisms, as well as parts, products and models thereof, to alter living or non-living materials for the production of knowledge, goods and services." For some people, though, this defi nition is troubling. Rising concerns about genetic engineering—and varying positions regarding disclosure of its use—have led to more questions than answers when it comes to using technology to advance the industry. Golan Raz, vice president of the global health division at Lycored, countered public apprehension, suggesting, "By nature, nutritional products—and especially naturally driven nutritional products—use technology at the very basis of both development and manufacturing." Esben Laulund, vice president of research and development (R&D) at Chr. Hansen, agreed. "Biotechnology, per defi nition, is the application of natural biological processes, and thus cannot be 'unnatural.' Through biotechnology, and especially microbiology, we can apply nature's own processes in an industrial or agricultural setting and offer sustainable alternatives to chemicals and other unwanted additives." Certifi ed food scientist Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., principal at Corvus Blue LLC, doesn't think it's that clean-cut. She maintained that at the foundational level, the lack of a legal defi nition for "natural" products has led to "an assortment of what someone believes to be natural—and therefore, also better for you and for the planet." From there, she said the industry "tends to be schizophrenic in this matter. It builds and supports the demand for clean label and minimally processed foods that are also safe and nutritious, but fails to educate its audience on the underlying technologies required to make that happen in many of the products commercialized in that sector." Shelke elaborated, "Many nature-derived alternatives to synthetic colors, fl avors and other functional food additives cannot be produced in a commercially viable way without the use of white biotechnology." She said white biotechnology's use in the natural products industry is growing with the clean label movement, "but continues to be largely eclipsed because of the general fear of the mention of food biotechnology." According to the DSM website, "White biotechnology, or industrial biotechnology as it is also known, refers to the use of living cells and/or their enzymes to create industrial products that are more easily degradable, require less energy, create less waste during production and sometimes perform better than products created using traditional chemical processes." Shelke also mentioned "green biotechnology" at work in the realm of food production. This includes techniques to help crops adapt to climate change and to create new varieties of plants and animals using less water, fertilizer and pesticides to produce better quality crops. Agricultural green biotechnology refers to the application of biotechnology techniques in crop improvement, and environmental green biotechnology addresses the application of biotechnological processes in the protection and restoration of environmental quality. Shelke noted, "Not all food biotechnology applications are good or evil," and made the argument for a case-by-case determination. That said, she acknowledged, "There is a place for food biotechnology in the natural products industry." Raz said for Lycored, the goal is to create synergy between the power of nature, science and biotechnology. "We use biotechnology knowledge and state-of-the-art methods not to replace nature, but to enhance it and bring it to the everyday lives of more people," he stated. It's a mission that allows the company to support the health and well-being of consumers, "while minimizing the toll on the environment by enhancing sustainability throughout the entire process." Despite any indecision, biotechnology is here to stay. Shelke agreed, stating, "The large number of scientifi c papers published in the last two decades makes it evident that food biotechnology is a rapidly expanding fi eld of science with applications that touch practically every aspect of our diet and health." She said the reach is also undeniable. "Modern food biotechnology spans speed, safety and quality aspects of Biotechnology Biotechnology can help improve a product's nutritional profile, environmental benefits, culinary performance and more. Now used in age-old goods such as bread, wine, cheese, yogurt and beer, biotechnology has pervaded today's food supply. Green biotechnology solutions have the potential to greatly improve plant health and crop productivity within 20 years. Biotechnology: The Shadowy Overlap of Science and Nature by Karen Butler INSIDER's Take "By nature, nutritional products—and especially naturally driven nutritional products—use technology at the very basis of both development and manufacturing. " —Golan Raz, vice president, global health division, Lycored

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