Wageningen University - Articles and news items

Innovating under pressure: the influence of soft factors in the diffusion of novel technologies

Issue 5 2016  •  14 October 2016  •  Ariette Matser, Senior Scientist UR Food & Biobased Research, Wageningen University; Bob Mulder, Lecturer Strategic Communication, Wageningen University; Maaike Spuij, Sub-department Communication, Philosophy and Technology, Wageningen University

Novel food processing technologies have the potential to improve or replace existing processes, but the diffusion of these innovations is not straightforward…

Herbicide residues in genetically modified, herbicide-resistant crops

Issue 2 2012  •  1 May 2012  •  Gijs A Kleter, RIKILT; John B Unsworth, Private Consultant and Caroline A Harris, Exponent International

Global agriculture has witnessed a continuously increasing adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops, both in terms of the area covered with these crops and the number of countries where these crops are grown. In 2011, the total worldwide acreage of these crops amounted to 160 million hectares, with the top 10 countries growing them located in the Americas (USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay), Asia (India, China, Pakistan), and South Africa. The most popular GM crops are major commodity crops, in particular soybean, maize, cotton and canola. The major traits that have been introduced into these crops through genetic modification are herbicide resistance and insect resistance1.

A previous article discussed the internationally harmonised principles for the safety assessment of GM foods, which commonly has to be carried out before these foods can be allowed onto the market in many nations2. One of the issues mentioned then but not elaborated (because it falls under the scope of the parallel regulation of pesticides) is the potential for the new or altered presence of pesticide residues in GM crops. In this article, we highlight the issues surrounding the presence of residues of herbicide active ingredients and their metabolites in herbicideresistant GM crops.

Herbicides are pesticides that contain active ingredients that are toxic to some types of plant, for which reason they can be used to combat weeds, which are non-crop plants growing in crop fields.

Preparing for the safety issues surrounding genetically modified animals that are to be used for producing foods

Issue 4 2010  •  26 August 2010  •  Gijs A. Kleter, RIKILT – Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen University and Research Centre

Genetically modified (GM) crops that are used for producing human food and animal feed are grown on a continuously increasing scale around the globe. Their worldwide acreage reached 134 million hectares in 2009, most of which was located in North and South America, China, India and South Africa, and growth is likely to continue1. Before these crops are allowed onto the market, they have to receive regulatory approval from the national authorities in many countries. Part of the procedure for obtaining approval usually is an assessment of the safety of the pertinent GM crops.

According to the regulations, the same applies to other GM organisms, such as micro-organisms and animals. Whereas food-producing GM animals have not reached the market yet, there are indications that, in nations outside the EU, this may become a reality in the near future. It is therefore important that the regulatory authorities prepare themselves for reviewing the safety of these GM animals. Below, the potential issues with regard to the food safety of GM animals are reviewed.

Cisgenesis: a novel way to combat late blight

Issue 3 2009  •  10 September 2009  •  Anton Haverkort, Senior Researcher, Wageningen University and Research Centre

In most countries with temperate climates, cereal, notably wheat, is the most important arable crop. In a few countries such as the Netherlands, potato dominates. In the European Union, over 50 million hectares of wheat is grown against approximately two million hectares of potato, yielding some 70 million tons of tubers. The majority of the produce is consumed as fresh table potatoes but almost one fifth is processed into starch for industrial and food industry purposes, into frozen products such as french fries and into snacks such as chips (crisps in the UK).

Assessing the safety of genetically modified crops used for food and feed purposes

Issue 1 2009  •  20 February 2009  •  Gijs A. Kleter, RIKILT – Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen University and Research Center

In the mid-nineties, genetically modified crops (GM) that had been obtained through recombinant DNA technology were grown commercially at a large scale for the first time. The agricultural area that is covered with these crops has since then grown steadily, reaching 114 million hectares globally in 20072. GM crops and the foods and animal feed that are derived from them commonly have to be approved for marketing, for which they also have to undergo a safety assessment.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging for cereal products

Issue 2 2005, Past issues  •  3 May 2005  •  John van Duynhoven and Gerard van Dalen, Foods Research Centre, Unilever R&D, Vlaardingen (NL), Ales Mohoric and Henk van As, Wageningen University and Research Center (NL), Pedro Ramos Cabrer, Utrecht University (NL) and Klaas Nicolay, Utrecht University (NL) and current affiliation Eindhoven University of Technology

How does the microstructure of a food product behave during processing? And what events take place during the shelf life of food products? New developments in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) enable cereal food technologists to address such questions within the context of product innovation.

In the food industry, pressure to bring new products faster to the market has increased and in the meantime the systems under investigation are becoming ever more complex. An important segment of food innovations comprises cereal products such as snacks and (pre-processed) staple foods. Food technologists well appreciate the importance of understanding structure-property relations in developing these novel food products. Assessment of food micro- and macrostructures by conventional techniques, however, mostly involves invasive and destructive procedures. This precludes the observation of dynamic events in relation to food structures during processing and storage. Hence, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has gained considerable interest, since this tomographic technique can map structures in a non-invasive and dynamic manner. The potential of MRI is currently exploited to its full extent within medicine, where it has become one of the most powerful diagnostic tools – an accomplishment for which a Nobel Prize was recently awarded (Sir Peter Mansfield, Paul C. Lauterbur, 2003). In its most widely used form, MRI detects water in soft tissues and image contrast can be obtained by exploiting differences in water density and/or mobility. In the last decade, MRI has also found applications in food science. It has become clear, however, that ‘conventional’ MRI techniques are not always adequate for assessment of cereal products, especially those in the low-moisture regime. Under low moisture conditions, cereal products typically have extended shelf life stability and/or favourable sensory properties such as crispness. In order to address the measurement challenges for such systems, Unilever and the Universities of Wageningen, Utrecht and Delft embarked on a project to develop and implement novel MRI methodology. Here we will present several examples of the application of novel MRI methodology for visualisation of moisture migration in cereal systems. It will be demonstrated that MRI can be used to monitor ingress of water during cooking of processed rice kernels in real time mode. We will also show how MRI can be deployed to assess migration of moisture in multi-component snacks, where differences in water activities exist.


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