- Title: Scientists look to genetically modified algae to help feed the planet
- Date: 30th May 2017
- Summary: LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEPHEN MAYFIELD, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY AND ALGAE GENETICIST AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN DIEGO, SAYING: "Well so algae are naturally very high in proteins and in lipids and those are sort of the two things that the world really needs. We're very good at producing lots of calories and lots of carbohydrates, so whether that's corn or rice or any of the grains, we've sort of got that one mastered. And the world, in fact, is not short of calories. What they're short of is proteins and essential fatty acids. And that's the thing that algae naturally accumulate." VARIOUS OF SCIENTIST COLLECTING ALGAE SAMPLE LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEPHEN MAYFIELD, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY AND ALGAE GENETICIST AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN DIEGO, SAYING: "Certainly when you grow algae up and then harvest it and dry it, it turns into a into a protein powder, right? And this is just, here's one that we've just finished up and so what we do is we simply take this and dried it out. And as you can see, it makes a very nice green powder and that is perfectly edible. In fact, it it it tastes pretty good. It tastes a little like wheatgrass. But this stuff is obviously very high in protein. It's high in vitamins. It's high in essential fatty acids. So we can just take this powder like this. I'll just take this this afternoon, I'll mix this into a smoothie, into a drink, and that'll be part of my lunch. But you can mix this into noodles, you can do a lot of different things with it. You can also extract the protein out of here and get just the colorless part of the protein and then that can be put into almost anything. That could actually be a meat substitute, we think one day, maybe an egg substitute, things like that."
- Embargoed: 13th June 2017 22:59
- Keywords: algae genetically modified genes University of California San Diego food crisis famine
- Location: LA JOLLA AND REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES/QUINGDAO, SHANDONG PROVINCE, CHINA/IMVEMPI AND LAMWO, UGANDA/AIDOA, SOMALIA/THE AMAZON, BRAZIL
- City: LA JOLLA AND REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES/QUINGDAO, SHANDONG PROVINCE, CHINA/IMVEMPI AND LAMWO, UGANDA/AIDOA, SOMALIA/THE AMAZON, BRAZIL
- Country: USA
- Topics: Life Sciences,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0066J17M1N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Algae, one of the smallest organisms on the planet, could soon be used to combat a looming global food crisis.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) hope genetically engineered micro-algae could be the food of the future, and they've taken a step closer to that reality with an outdoor field trial approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Algae geneticist Stephen Mayfield and his team inserted two genes into the algae - one a fluorescent protein to make the tiny organisms visible and a second to change their fatty acid profile.
The field trial showed that the genetically modified algae can be successfully cultivated outdoors without damaging the native algae populations that produce much of the oxygen on earth. The algae in the study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and published in the journal "Algal Research," also retained their genetically engineered traits. The UCSD team worked with scientists at Sapphire Energy, a biofuel company that Stephen Mayfield founded but currently has no affiliation with.
According to a recent report by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN), global food crises are worsening, with conditions likely to deteriorate further this year in some areas with an increasing risk of famine.
FSIN, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme and the International Food Policy Research Institute, said the demand for humanitarian assistance was escalating.
FSIN said that 108 million people were reported to be facing crisis level food insecurity or worse in 2016, a drastic increase from the previous year's total of almost 80 million.
The researchers hope algae, which can be grown on non-arable land with nothing but sunlight, air and water, can help meet the ever-increasing demand for food and alleviate the risk of famine.
"For us, you know, the world's a pretty good place. I can go and I can buy a hamburger, I can go and buy fish, I can go and buy anything I want. It's getting more expensive every year but, by and large, it hasn't really impacted us yet. But for the bottom three billion people on the planet that's not really an option," said Mayfield.
"So, algae gives us an opportunity to produce protein and greatly reduce costs with a much smaller environmental footprint."
And that, say the researchers, could help feed a growing population while protecting the planet at the same time.
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