The food industry is a complex, global collective of diverse businesses that supply much of the food energy consumed by the world population. Only subsistence farmers, those who survive on what they grow, can be considered outside of the scope of the modern food industry. The food industry includes:
- Regulation: local, regional, national and international rules and regulations for food production and sale, including food quality and food safety, and industry lobbying activities
- Education: academic, vocational, consultancy
- Research and development: food technology
- Financial services insurance, credit
- Manufacturing: agrichemicals, seed, farm machinery and supplies, agriculturalconstruction, etc.
- Agriculture: raising of crops and livestock, seafood
- Food processing: preparation of fresh products for market, manufacture of prepared food products
- Marketing: promotion of generic products (e.g. milk board), new products, public opinion, through advertising, packaging, public relations, etc.
- Wholesale and distribution: warehousing, transportation, logistics
Food processing is the transformation of raw ingredients into food, or of food into other forms. Food processing typically takes clean, harvested crops or butcheredanimal products and uses these to produce attractive, marketable and often long shelf-life food products. Similar processes are used to produce animal feed.
Performance parameters for food processing
- Hygiene, e.g. measured by number of micro-organisms per ml of finished product
- Energy efficiency measured e.g. by “ton of steam per ton of sugar produced”
- Minimization of waste, measured e.g. by “percentage of peeling loss during the peeling of potatoes’
- Labour used, measured e.g. by ”number of working hours per ton of finished product”
- Minimization of cleaning stops measured e.g. by “number of hours between cleaning stops”
Genetically modified foods
Genetically modified foods (GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically, genetically modified crops. GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding andsomaclonal variation.
Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These may have been engineered for faster growth, resistance to pathogens, production of extra nutrients, or any other beneficial purpose. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed, although as of July 2010 none are currently on the market.
Genetically engineered plants are generated in a laboratory by altering their genetic makeup and are tested in the laboratory for desired qualities. This is usually done by adding one or more genes to a plant’s genome using genetic engineering techniques. Most genetically modified plants are generated by the biolistic method (particle gun) or by Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation.
Once satisfactory plants are produced, sufficient seeds are gathered, and the companies producing the seed need to apply forregulatory approval to field-test the seeds. If these field tests are successful, the company must seek regulatory approval for the crop to be marketed (see Regulation of the release of genetic modified organisms). Once that approval is obtained, the seeds are mass produced, and sold to farmers. The farmers produce genetically modified crops, which also contain the inserted gene and its protein product. The farmers then sell their crops as commodities into the food supply market, in countries where such sales are permitted.