Moving enzyme production largely into factories using genetically modification has resulted in better functioning enzymes, yet the bakery industry has been a poor communicator on both the ubiquity and benefits of GM enzymes, said one baking enzyme expert.
Troy Boutte, PhD, group manager, bakery, fats and oils innovations, DuPont Nutrition and Health, was speaking to attendees of Baking Tech 2014, hosted this week in Chicago by the America Society of Baking.
Since Emil Christian Hansen produced rennet for cheese-making in 1874—what Dr. Boutte called the first (purported) commercially available enzyme—the global bakery enzyme market has come a long way, topping $400 million in 2012 and projected to reach $600 million by 2018.
As the market has matured, many early innovations—from glucose oxidase for flour treatment and xylanase for dough stability, to maltogenic amylase for shelf extension and transglutaminase for protein strengthening—are still widely used in bakeries today. Yet, perhaps one of the most notable turning points—Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer’s landmark recombinant DNA patent in 1974—resulted in a shift to the now pervasive factory production of enzymes, and to widespread use of GMOs, which have come under attack in recent years.
“There’s increasing scrutiny of genetic modification,” Dr. Boutte said. “A lot of enzymes are GM—in fact the most productive are GM. We don’t even have legislation around natural as it stands. Whether GMOs will be part of that legislation remains to be seen, but nature doesn’t like a vacuum. For the moment, enzymes are considered natural. But again, there’s no legislation there, and lawsuits are piling up around natural claims.”
GM enzymes enable better selectivity, functionality
Non-GM enzymes are obtained from selected microbial strains, such as those occurring in soy sauce or beer. The challenge, Dr. Boutte says, is that they contain what he calls “side activities”.
“You could extract non-GM enzymes from soy sauce or beer, but in doing so, you get not just one enzyme, but all the enzymes that organism produces. So if you’re looking for an amylase enzyme and that organism is also producing pholspholipase, etc. you get all that. It might not be as selective as you’d like.”
A GM enzyme is a gene found in nature that’s transferred from one organism to another, known as a pet organism. Produce just more or less enzyme we are interested in, and in higher volumes. “When you’re making a genetically modified enzyme, you’re taking a snippet out of the plasmid [circular piece of DNA] and replacing that with a coating for protein and putting it back into the organism, which then produces that protein. “It’s a fairly simple process,” he said. “But scientists are poor at getting the word out, and the industry is as well.
“We need to take some time to fight back,” he said. “If we were truly making products that were dangerous, then there should be regulations around it. But if the science is showing the products are safe, they shouldn’t be attacking these types of products.”
We as an industry need to take some time to fight back
Drawing on history, Dr. Boutte used the example of post-World War II efforts by the US to use nuclear material in a more positive way.
“Atomic gardens were planted with GM plants using chemical mutation or atomic materials,” he said. “Now, somewhere around 25% of our crops come from these types of materials. They’re not radioactive. That’s how seeds themselves were mutated and developed.”
Moreover, the global population continues to increase, though arable land peaked in 1960.
“From 1960 to 2000, the population doubled. But we grew that food on the same land. It’s projected that the global population is going to flat line and start to trend down around 2100. But we need to be able to continue to grow a safe food supply in volumes that are affordable for most of the world.”
‘New’ enzymes improve bake tolerance and shelf life in historically challenging products
Shifting gears to talk enzyme innovation, Dr. Boutte outlined several advancements, many for long-established bakery enzymes. Improvements in phosopholipase (PL)—first patented for baking in 1984—have made them more selective toward phospholipids and glycolipids and less selective toward triglycerides, resulting in products that are more tolerant to baking.
Elsewhere, improvements have also been made to uninhibited bacterial xylanase (introduced in the early 2000s), enabling a more consistent bake across time and from crop to crop, Dr. Boutte said.
Lastly, he said, enhanced anti-staling amylases are enabling bakery manufacturers to extend the shelf life of products they couldn’t before, such as tortillas. “Now, flour and corn and corn tortilla extension is possible with maltotetraose enzymes. The combination of enzymes, emulsifiers and hydrocolloids can give excellent shelf life extension and eating quality, and keep the tortillas flexible over time.”
Elsewhere the ongoing shift toward clean label dough conditioners—especially amid recent concerns over azodicarbonamide replacement—also presents new opportunities for enzymes, which have long been used to clean up labels. “People don’t mind enzymes on the label,” he said. “Now that ADA is moving out and more than likely some oxidants on the list, we’re going to see more use of enzymes for strengthening and condition.”