Parawira - African Journal of Biotechnology Vol 7(10 pp...

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African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 7 (10), pp. 1377-1384, 16 May, 2008 Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/AJB ISSN 1684–5315 © 2008 Academic Journals Review The status and trends in food, industrial and environmental biotechnology research in Zimbabwe Wilson Parawira Institute of Food, Nutrition and Family Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP 167 Mt. Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe. E-mail: [email protected] Accepted 4 April, 2008 Biotechnology offers industrial and environmental solutions through the use of living cells and or their products to provide goods and services. This paper reviews for the first time the status and trends in industrial and environmental biotechnology research in Zimbabwe for the past 25 years. An attempt is made to pinpoint significant research gaps, and the applications of the research in critically reviewing the research. Zimbabwe is pursing an active research and development in food and industrial and environmental biotechnology. Some of the notable successes from these researches are summarised in this review serving as guidance to scientists on what needs to be investigated further, for partnerships and for those who wish to develop the biotechnology to commercial products. A number of enzymes with potential industrial and environmental applications have been isolated from untapped bioresources in Zimbabwe. Some enzymes were purified and characterised and await applications in the industry. Ethanol and biogas which are renewable energies can be produced by converting biomass using microorganisms. Much has been published on functional properties of mucilage and gum from plants in an attempt to facilitate the use of the polymers in industry. There have been some efforts to treat waste (water) using aerobic and anaerobic digestion into biogas and research to degrade dyes from textiles industry using enzymes from novel fungi. So far little has been done to apply much of the research findings in pilot- and large-scale production systems. Key words: Biotechnology, industrial enzymes, environmental biotechnology, Zimbabwe. INTRODUCTION Biotechnology is a broad term that refers to techniques that use biological systems, living organisms, or deri- vatives thereof, to make or modify products and to provide goods and services to people. It has wide appli- cations in agriculture, medicine, industry, food science and the environment. Biotechnology provides potential to be the source of solutions to many economic, social and environmental problems that developing countries are confronted with. It has the potential to produce new, improved, safer, and less expensive products and processes. Pharmaceuticals and diagnostics for humans and animals, seeds, entire plants and animals, foods and food additives, industrial enzymes, bioenergy and pollution degrading microorganisms are just a few of the things that can be created or enhanced through the use of biotechnology.
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