Volume 19. Number 2. 2014

Research Team Converts Sugarcane to Cold Tolerant, Oil-Producing Crop

A multi-institutional team led by researchers from the University of Illinois reports that it can increase sugarcane's geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30 percent and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. Aside from sugarcane, the initiative will also include sorghum into even more productive, oil-generating plants.
The team introduced genes to sugarcane that increased its natural oil production to about 1.5 percent. Using genetic engineering, the research team increased photosynthetic efficiency in sugarcane and sorghum by 30 percent, according to team leader Stephen Long. To boost cold tolerance, researchers are crossing sugarcane with the perennial grass Miscanthus. The new hybrid is more cold tolerant than sugarcane, but further crosses are still needed to restore the other attributes of sugarcane while preserving its cold tolerance.
Long added, "Our goal is to make sugarcane produce more oil, be more productive with more photosynthesis and be more cold tolerant." Crop Biotech Update (Feb 26, 2014).
For more details about this research, read the news release at

Lower sodium intake may decrease cardiovascular disease risk

A study published in Circulation shows that lower sodium intake may lower the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The researchers note that recent studies have raised the possibility of adverse effects of low sodium, particularly less than 2,300 mg/24 hr, on CVD. However, they note that these findings might have resulted from suboptimal measurement of sodium and potential biases related to indication or reverse causation.
The study’s researchers concluded that the results "are consistent with overall health benefits of reducing sodium intake to the 1,500–2,300 mg/day range in the majority of the population, in agreement with current dietary guidelines."

Agricultural technologies could increase global crop yields up to 67%

Increased demand for food due to population and income growth, and the impacts of climate change on agriculture will ratchet up the pressure for increased and more sustainable agricultural production to feed the planet. A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) measures the impacts of agricultural innovation on farm productivity, prices, hunger, and trade flows as we approach 2050 and identifies practices that could significantly benefit developing nations.
The report, Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Technologies, examines 11 agricultural practices and technologies and how they could help farmers around the world improve the sustainability of growing three of the world’s main staple crops—maize, rice, and wheat.
Using a first-of-its-kind data model, IFPRI pinpoints the agricultural technologies and practices that can most significantly reduce food prices and food insecurity in developing nations. The study profiles 11 agricultural innovations: crop protection, drip irrigation, drought tolerance, heat tolerance, integrated soil fertility management, no-till farming, nutrient use efficiency, organic agriculture, precision agriculture, sprinkler irrigation, and water harvesting. IFT- The Weekly 13 Feb. 2014.

Crop Biotech Update Special Edition

  • Eighteen Million Farmers in 27 Countries Chose Biotech Crops in 2013,
  • Global Plantings Increase by 5 Million Hectares
  • Inaugural plantings of biotech drought-tolerant maize in U.S.;
  • Further developments in drought-tolerance technology across the world.

"Gluten Sensitivity" May Be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins

Two years ago, at the recommendation of a nutritionist, I stopped eating wheat and a few other grains. Within a matter of days the disabling headaches and fatigue that I had been suffering for months vanished. Initially my gastroenterologist interpreted this resolution of my symptoms as a sign that I perhaps suffered from celiac disease, a peculiar disorder in which the immune system attacks a bundle of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye that are collectively referred to as gluten. The misdirected assault ravages and inflames the small intestine, interfering with the absorption of vital nutrients and thereby causing bloating, diarrhea, headaches, tiredness and, in rare cases, death. Yet several tests for celiac disease had come back negative. Rather my doctors concluded that I had non-celiac "gluten sensitivity," a relatively new diagnosis. The prevalence of gluten sensitivity is not yet clear, but some data suggest it may afflict as many as 6 percent of Americans, six times the number of people with celiac disease.
"You know the story of the blind man and the elephant? Well, that's what gluten-sensitivity research is right now," says Sheila Crowe, head of research at the gastroenterology division at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. As doctors continue to tease apart the diverse ways that the human body reacts to all the proteins and other molecules besides gluten that are found in grains, they will be able to develop more accurate tests for various sensitivities to those compounds. Ultimately clinicians hope such tests will help people who have a genuine medical condition to avoid the specific constituents of grains that make them ill and will stop others from unnecessarily cutting out nutrient-dense whole grains.
Until the Middle Ages, the types of grain that people cultivated contained far smaller amounts of gluten than the crops we grow today. In the following centuries—even before people understood what gluten was—they selectively bred varieties of wheat that produced bread that was lighter and chewier, inexorably increasing consumption of the protein. As technology for breeding and farming wheat improved, Americans began to produce and eat more wheat overall. Today the average person in the U.S. eats around 60 kg of wheat a year—often in the form of bread, cereal, crackers, pasta, cookies and cakes—which translates to about 23 g of gluten each day. Scientific American Health and Biology 1 Feb. 2014.

Sugar on trial: What you really need to know

It's hardly controversial to say that all the sugar is probably doing us no good. Now, though, sugar is being touted as public health enemy number one: as bad if not worse than fat, and the major driving force behind obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes. Some researchers even contend that sugar is toxic or addictive.
As a result, health bodies are gearing up for a "war on sugar". The World Health Organization wants us to cut consumption radically. In the US, doctors and scientists are pressing food companies to reduce sugar and be more open about how much they add; in the UK a group called Action on Sugar has just launched a campaign to ratchet down sugar. Politicians are mulling taxes on sugary drinks. But is sugar really that bad? Or is it all a storm in a teacup – with two sugars please? New Scientist. 30 Jan, 2014.

Usefulness of testing for Clostridium botulinum in powdered infant formula and dairy-based ingredients for infant formula. Dated : 17 January 2014 (revision 1)

In early August 2013, a New Zealand dairy company announced that a whey protein concentrate it produces for infant formula, beverages and animal feed was potentially contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, leading to recalls of infant formula products.

Meeting the Needs of the Ageing Population - Implications for Food Science and Technology

The International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) has released its latest Scientific Information Bulletin (SIB), which addresses Meeting the Needs of the Ageing Population - Implications for Food Science and Technology. This SIB presents authoritative science on emerging and headline food science issues. It is produced by IUFoST experts for legislators, consumers, food science departments and the more than 300,000 members of IUFoST Adhering Bodies worldwide.

Bewsey's KNeW Process Removes Even The Toughest Pollutants.

In November 2013 the KNeW process beat five other shortlisted technology processes to take the prize for the best water management and supply solution at the prestigious annual Institute if chemical Engineers awards, held in the United Kingdom. The institute is the hub for 38 000 chemical, biochemical and process engineering professionals worldwide.
"The interest since winning the award has been electrifying" says Bewsey, "and there is more interest coming from the US because strict environmental rules and penalties make finding solutions there more urgent. Over 60% of SA’s water is used in Agriculture, he says and as water evaporates on the soil it leaves behind salt which is causing more devastation to our soils than all other dissolved solids combined. The KNeW process removes all dissolved ions from the water, converting toxic effluent into profitable end products like potassium nitrate and ammonium Sulphate, both valuable agricultural chemicals. Moneyweb 13 Jan 2014.

Food Science Doctorates from the University of Pretoria Spring Graduation 2013

Dr Eugénie Kayitesi. Thesis: Micronisation of cowpeas: Effects on sensory quality, phenolic compounds and bioactive properties

Dr Penina Ngusye Muoki. Thesis: Nutritional, rheological and sensory properties of extrusion cooked cassava-soy flour complementary porridges.

Dr Obiro Cuthbert Wokadala. Thesis: Characterisation of nano-scale amylose-lipid complexes isolated from Eragrastis tef and maize starches during pasting, and their application as a fat replacer in margarine.

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.