Microbes as a food source (SCP)

Microbes have proven their usefulness in many situations, such as in the production of large quantities of insulin through recombinant DNA technology, bioremediation of oil spillages in the environment, and having the potential to generate renewable sources of fuel. Another addition to this list is the potential of microbes themselves to become a food supplement for human diets and animal feeds. Single cell protein (SCP) is the protein extracted, or the cells themselves, from cultivated microbial biomass. The microbes involved are bacteria, fungi and algae.

There are many advantages associated with SCP, the major ones being its high protein content and product yield as a result of the high growth rate of microbes. Another useful property is that it can be grown on waste products such as whey, which makes it more of an economically- feasible protein source. However, the term SCP is somewhat misleading as it usually does not consist of only protein, but also nucleic acids and a variety of other molecules, which in turn, may have an adverse effect on the health of the consumer. Therefore purification steps are required, thus adding to both the duration and cost of the production process.

With further research, SCP may have the biggest impact in third world countries in the future, where populations are ever-growing and protein sources are becoming scarce as a result of increasing demand. As SCP is a microbe- derived product, it does not require farm land and will therefore reduce the stress on agriculture and so will be hugely beneficial to countries such as India, who’s government and people relies heavily on the profits generated from the agricultural industry.

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