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Precision Fermentation Alliance and Food Fermentation Europe finalize a refined definition of precision fermentation

February 26, 2024

The Precision Fermentation Alliance (PFA) and FFE (Food Fermentation Europe) have announced a refined definition of 'precision fermentation', to provide clarity on the unique characteristics of precision fermentation and its differentiation from other food production technologies.

The finalized definition: Precision fermentation combines the process of traditional fermentation with the latest advances in biotechnology to efficiently produce a compound of interest, such as a protein, flavor molecule, vitamin, pigment, or fat.

How does it work? A specific molecular sequence is inserted into a microorganism to give it instructions to produce the desired molecule when fermented. These molecular sequences are derived from digitized databases rather than taken directly from the relevant animals or plants. At the end of the fermentation process, the resulting compounds are filtered out, separating them from the microorganisms that produced them.

Precision fermentation has been in use globally for over 30 years to make medicines (like insulin) and countless common food ingredients (such as human milk oligosaccharides or rennet).

"With so many new food technologies entering the market, we recognized the need to refine and expand the definition of Precision Fermentation to help educate consumers and food industry stakeholders," said Irina Gerry, a spokesperson of PFA. "Our collaboration with FFE has resulted in a comprehensive definition that emphasizes the distinctive features of precision fermentation and its applications, as well as draws clear boundaries between precision fermentation and other fermentation-based technologies."

The refined definition of precision fermentation highlights key distinctions, including:

Leveraging bioengineering: Precision fermentation (PF) stands apart from traditional/wild fermentation and natural breeding techniques by leveraging the latest bioengineering techniques.

Producing specific compounds: Unlike cell cultivation, PF focuses on using microorganisms to produce specific compounds of interest, rather than growing an entire cell or biomass.

Sourcing from digital databases: Molecular sequences used in PF are sourced from digitized databases, eliminating the need for animal involvement in any part of the process, which is different from cultivated meat where a small sample of cells is taken from a live animal.

Filtered compounds: At the end of the fermentation process, the targeted molecules are isolated and filtered out from the fermentation broth, which is different from biomass fermentation, where the entire biomass (including the cells) is the product.

Established technology: While new molecules are now being produced using PF, the process itself has been safely utilized in food and medicine for decades.

"While some applications of precision fermentation may be new, the technology itself has been safely used in food and medicine like producing insulin for over 30 years," added Jevan Nagarajah, President of FFE. "We are excited to contribute to the understanding of PF and its role in advancing food innovation."

The collaboration between PFA and FFE underscores the importance of clarity and education in the evolving landscape of food technology. Education on precision fermentation is vital for transitioning to sustainable food systems amid imminent threats like climate change. While regulations are being implemented globally, embracing novel food technologies is essential for resilience given their potential to positively impact our food systems.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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