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55% of Italians deem it useful to continue GMO research, while 52% would consider buying biotech products in the future. Both figures come from a survey conducted by ISPO on behalf of Futuragra, the farmers’ association that is campaigning for the introduction of biotechnologies in Italy. Information, scientific research and intention to buy are the key topics of the survey which was presented in Rome end of November 2012 by Prof. Renato Mannheimer (ISPO Ricerche) and Silvano Dalla Libera (Vice President of Futuragra).

Respondents in favour of GMO research and possible buyers
55% of Italians favour continuing GMO research, while 62% think that Italian scientists should have the same rights to do research on an equal footing with their peers from other countries. 49% disagree with the ban on experimentation in Italy. Graduates and people in the 35 to 44age bracket are the keenest supporters of scientific research.
52% of Italians would consider buying GMO food under certain conditions, The main driver (48%) concerns the potential health benefits, followed by enhanced environmental sustainability (37%) and lower price than an equivalent product (27% of the sample). One quarter of the population would not buy GMOs under any conditions.
“The survey exposes the public’s lack of knowledge about GMOs in Italy. GMOs are often in the limelight of ideological communication in debates where scientific research is underrepresented, said Prof. Mannheimer. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is a plea to restore the role of science and research in this context. The propensity to buy shown by over half the population testifies to the consumers’ high level of awareness; they are less biased than we were led to believe. These data unfold a new scenario in the debate and demonstrate an openness on the part of Italians, which cannot be disregarded in the future.”

GMO Awareness
33% of respondents state that they have never heard of GMOs before; half of them (50%) are over 64 years old, and mostly reside in the South and the islands (41%). Despite the fact that 67% state that they know about GMOs, only 7% really knows what they really are. An even slimmer proportion (5%) knows what the acronym (OGM in Italian) stands for, or understand that there are genes in every plant, and not just in biotech crops. Only half of the respondents are clear as to the meaning of the acronym (GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism): less than one in two can give the meaning, while 48% has no idea.
“We’re trying to understand where all the skepticism against GMOs comes from, says Silvano Dalla Libera, Vice President of Futuragra. This survey shows very clearly that, if on one hand people are not informed because of the one-sidedness of the debate, on the other hand there is a strong demand for education that cannot remain unmet. Italy must resume experimentation and apply the EU directives that make it already possible to grow biotech crops in this country.”

An unrealistic public debate where opponents dominate
If one considers average exposure to information in the media, anti-GMO outweigh pro-GMO data by 8%, but that ratio increases to 10% in the group of respondents who had only heard about GMOs.
“It is not surprising that the survey shows that 42% of Italians think that GMO crops are grown in Italy today, commented Dalla Libera, and that 63% do not know or think that the products they buy do not contain some proportion of GMOs. Similarly, only 1 Italian out of 5 knows that in Italian PDO farms, GMOs are permitted in livestock feed.This is because of the anti-biotech propaganda: on one hand, they make people believe that GMOs are grown here, on the other hand, they will not admit that biotech raw materials have been used in food and have been present in the food chain for years, without any ill effects on human health, while providing cost benefits to both consumers and producers.”
Only 12% of the population has proactively sought information on GMOs, while 55% has received it passively. While for the “proactive” group the Internet is the most common source (46%), for “passive” recipients television is by far the most frequently referred-to source (70% of total respondents).Overall, 51% of Italians have not received any information on GMOs, although out of the 25% with a high level of exposure, a high proportion of respondents are aged 18 to 34 (25%) and live in Northeastern Italy (30%).

Farmer Awareness
Most of the population (52%) agrees that if it is legal to sell GMO products, it should also be legal to grow them. At the same time, Italians seem to be aware of the low competitivity of Italian farmers. To 56% of the respondents, it is unfair to allow foreign growers to cultivate GMO crops and then sell them in Italy while Italian farmers are prohibited from doing the same. “These answers make us particularly confident for the future, continues Dalla Libera. Despite the one-sided public debate, Italians feel that agriculture is a primary production sector.”

Survey Data
Survey carried out by ISPO Ricerche srl/3G Deal & Research srl for Futuragra. –Sample: Representative of the Italian 18+ population – Geographical scope: national - Cases: 800 - Method: CATI - Rejections/Substitutions: 1,077 - Date of survey: 7th-8th November 2012 –Approximation Margin: 3.5%


UCSF Study Examines Role of Key Molecule in Body’s Metabolism, which Eating at Odd Times Can Upset
If the sinful excess of holiday eating sends your system into butter-slathered, brandy-soaked overload, you are not alone: People who are jet-lagged, people who work graveyard shifts and plain-old late-night snackers know just how you feel. All these activities upset the body’s “food clock,” a collection of interacting genes and molecules known technically as the food-entrainable oscillator, which keeps the human body on a metabolic even keel. A new study by researchers at UCSF is helping to reveal how this clock works on a molecular level. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the UCSF team has shown that a protein called PKCγ is critical in resetting the food clock if our eating habits change. The study showed that normal laboratory mice given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber, and run around in anticipation of their new mealtime. But mice lacking the PKCγ gene are not able to respond to changes in their meal time – instead sleeping right through it. The work has implications for understanding the molecular basis of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic syndromes because a desynchronized food clock may serve as part of the pathology underlying these disorders, said Louis Ptacek, MD, the John C. Coleman Distinguished Professor of Neurology at UCSF and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. It may also help explain why night owls are more likely to be obese than morning larks, Ptacek said. “Understanding the molecular mechanism of how eating at the “wrong” time of the day desynchronizes the clocks in our body can facilitate the development of better treatments for disorders associated with night-eating syndrome, shift work and jet lag,” he added.

Resetting the Food Clock
Look behind the face of a mechanical clock and you will see a dizzying array of cogs, flywheels, reciprocating counterbalances and other moving parts. Biological clocks are equally complex, composed of multiple interacting genes that turn on or off in an orchestrated way to keep time during the day.
In most organisms, biological clockworks are governed by a master clock, referred to as the “circadian oscillator,” which keeps track of time and coordinates our biological processes with the rhythm of a 24-hour cycle of day and night.
Life forms as diverse as humans, mice and mustard greens all possess such master clocks. And in the last decade or so, scientists have uncovered many of their inner workings, uncovering many of the genes whose cycles are tied to the clock and discovering how in mammals it is controlled by a tiny spot in the brain known as the “superchiasmatic nucleus.”
Scientists also know that in addition to the master clock, our bodies have other clocks operating in parallel throughout the day. One of these is the food clock, which is not tied to one specific spot in the brain but rather multiple sites throughout the body.
The food clock is there to help our bodies make the most of our nutritional intake. It controls genes that help in everything from the absorption of nutrients in our digestive tract to their dispersal through the bloodstream, and it is designed to anticipate our eating patterns. Even before we eat a meal, our bodies begin to turn on some of these genes and turn off others, preparing for the burst of sustenance – which is why we feel the pangs of hunger just as the lunch hour arrives.
Scientist have known that the food clock can be reset over time if an organism changes its eating patterns, eating to excess or at odd times, since the timing of the food clock is pegged to feeding during the prime foraging and hunting hours in the day. But until now, very little was known about how the food clock works on a genetic level.
What Ptacek and his colleagues discovered is the molecular basis for this phenomenon: the PKCγ protein binds to another molecule called BMAL and stabilizes it, which shifts the clock in time.
The article, “PKCγ participates in food entrainment by regulating BMAL1” is authored by Luoying Zhang, Diya Abrahama, Shu-Ting Lin, Henrik Oster, Gregor Eichele, Ying-Hui Fu, and Louis J. Ptácek and appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In addition to UCSF, authors on the study are affiliated with the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany.
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health via grants #GM079180 and #708 HL059596, the Sandler Neurogenetics Fund, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

New research has answered one of the most common questions parents ask their doctors: How much milk should I be giving my children? The answer is two cups per day.
“We started to research the question because professional recommendations around milk intake were unclear and doctors and parents were seeking answers,” said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital and the lead author of the study.
Dr. Maguire and his team looked at how cow’s milk affected body stores of iron and vitamin D – two of the most important nutrients in milk – in more than 1,300 children aged two to five years.
The results of the study appeared online in Pediatrics today.
They found that children who drank more cow’s milk had higher Vitamin D stores but lower iron stores.
“We saw that two cups of cow’s milk per day was enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels for most children, while also maintaining iron stores. With additional cow’s milk, there was a further reduction in iron stores without greater benefit from vitamin D,” Dr. Maguire said.
The researchers recruited healthy children during routine doctor’s appointments between 2008 and 2010. Parents were asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire about their children’s milk drinking habits and other factors that could affect iron and Vitamin D stores. A blood sample was obtained from each child to determine body stores of iron and Vitamin D.
The children were participating in TARGet Kids!, a unique collaboration between children’s doctors and researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children. The program follows children from birth with the aim of understanding and preventing common nutrition problems in the early years and their impact on health and disease later in life.
The study also suggested that children with darker skin pigmentation may not have enough vitamin D stores during the winter months. Dr. Maguire suggested that instead of consuming more milk to increase these levels, wintertime vitamin D supplementation may be a more appropriate way of increasing vitamin D stores while preserving iron stores.
“Vitamin D deficiency in children has been linked to bone health issues and iron deficiency has been linked to anemia and delays in cognitive development,” Dr. Maguire said. “Being able to answer parent’s questions about healthy cow’s milk intake is important to avoiding these potentially serious complications of low vitamin D and iron stores.”
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that cow’s milk not be started before one year of age. The study was supported in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation.

A new study suggests that there is a significant correlation between excessive daytime sleepiness and vitamin D, and race plays an important factor. Results show that in patients with normal vitamin D levels, progressively higher levels of daytime sleepiness were correlated inversely with progressively lower levels of vitamin D. Among patients with vitamin D deficiency, sleepiness and vitamin D levels were associated only among black patients. Surprisingly, this correlation was observed in a direct relationship, with higher vitamin D levels associated with a higher level of sleepiness among black patients. “While we found a significant correlation between vitamin D and sleepiness, the relationship appears to be more complex than we had originally thought,” said David McCarty, MD, the study’s principal investigator. “It’s important to now do a follow-up study and look deeper into this correlation. The study, appearing online in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, involved a consecutive series of 81 sleep clinic patients who complained of sleep problems and nonspecific pain. All patients eventually were diagnosed with a sleep disorder, which in the majority of cases was obstructive sleep apnea. Vitamin D level was measured by blood sampling, and sleepiness was determined using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. According to the authors, this is the first study to demonstrate a significant relationship between sleepiness and vitamin D. They noted that it is logical for race to affect this relationship because increased skin pigmentation is an established risk factor for low vitamin D.
The study was not designed to examine causality. However, the authors’ previous and current research suggests that suboptimal levels of vitamin D may cause or contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness, either directly or by means of chronic pain.


IMAGE:The actin cytoskeleton (green) and plastids (red) are believed to function in gravity sensing and signaling in plants.

IMAGE:The actin cytoskeleton (green) and plastids (red) are believed to function in gravity sensing and signaling in plants.

Gravity affects the ecology and evolution of every living organism. In plants, the general response to gravity is well known: their roots respond positively, growing down, into the soil, and their stems respond negatively, growing upward, to reach the sunlight. But how do plants sense gravity and how do they direct or signal their cells to grow in response to it? Although botanists understand a great deal about how this works, a recent article in the recent issue of the American Journal of Botany reviews what we know so far, from mechanical to genetic approaches; it reveals that there are still substantial gaps in our knowledge of the molecular details and highlights new ideas for potential regulating mechanisms. One of the most constant environmental stimuli that a plant encounters is gravity. Elison Blancaflor, author of the article and a Professor in the Plant Biology Division at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Oklahoma, is particularly interested in the effects that gravity has on plant development, and especially in its pivotal role in the evolution of a plant's sensory and signaling system. "Although the process of gravitropism—defined as the downward growth of the plant root so it can explore the soil better for nutrients and water and the upward growth of the plant shoots to maximize light absorption—appears to be a simple plant response that we observe here on earth, the biological processes that control it are rather complex," notes Blancaflor.
Indeed, Blancaflor explains in his review article that gravitropism requires the coordinated activity of different cell and tissue types. In plants, the area where gravity is sensed is often spatially distinct from the area of growth. So how do these two discrete areas communicate with each other and direct the plant to where it should grow?
To date, gravity sensing in plants has been explained by the starch-statolith hypothesis. For example, in roots, gravity-sensing cells at the tip of the root contain dense, starch-filled organelles known as amyloplasts. Amyloplasts settle to the bottom of the cells in response to gravity, which then triggers the hormone auxin to move to another, distinct, area of cells and causes them to elongate and bend toward gravity. However, the molecular details of exactly how the physical movement and settling of amyloplasts in one set of cells triggers the accumulation of auxin in another, physically distant, set of cells in a plant remains a mystery.
The most prevalent current hypothesis is that the cytoskeleton, or cellular scaffolding, plays a major role in this gravity-sensing, intercellular communication; the cytoskeleton is made up of filaments, consisting of the proteins actin or tubulin, that allow movement of materials along strands, such as is seen in meiosis or mitosis. However, there is a major controversy in the field regarding the role of actin in gravitropism primarily due to contradictory outcomes in studies where actin was inhibited—the most interesting ones, according to Blancaflor, being those where actin disruption actually led to enhanced gravitropism.
Blancaflor tackles this controversy by reviewing what we know regarding how amyloplasts work, what affects actin, and how recent genetic studies have discovered that proteins may regulate actin and therefore auxin distribution. For example, recent genetic work using the model plant, Arabidopsis, reveals potential mechanisms as to how the actin cytoskeleton connects the gravity sensing cells to auxin in the growing cells.
Although Blancaflor's review article specifically discusses, based on years of research, how one component of the plant cell, namely the cytoskeleton, controls the process of plant gravitropism, he notes that understanding gravitropism has important implications for agriculture as well.
"Information from basic studies on the cytoskeleton and how plants respond to gravity," he comments, "can inform and provide strategies for genetically engineering crop plants with improved root systems or overall plant architecture."
Blancaflor's interest in gravitropism goes even beyond this earth's atmosphere and into space: "The research I discuss in this article has led me to explore how minimal gravity impacts plant growth and development, and to ask if, like on earth, the actin cytoskeleton also contributes to plant growth in space where gravity is reduced."
Indeed, Blancaflor has conducted research on the Space Shuttle and will have some upcoming experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) this year related to the topic he reviews in this special issue article.

Yaso® is a new patented sprouted soya raw material, perfect for bakery, pasta, ready meals, meat or meat free food manufacture. The creators of Yaso® have combined the nutritional composition of soya, the health advantages of sprouted foods and the demand of large scale processing. Fitorex was announced as NuW Excellence Awards winner in Weight and Hunger Management of the Health Ingredients Europe event. According to the Judging Panel: “Fitorex patented raw material, Yaso® provides a unique story with a natural way to increase the nutritional value of food products, with a soy ingredient of great taste and a very wide application potential that can help to extend the use of soy products”.

In ice-creams, if pleasure is key, health drives innovation, above all in mature markets, as Europe. And for example increasing concerns about weight management and diabetes have led manufacturers to develop products that help consumers to indulge without guilt by cutting calories, fat and/or sugars. Despite the actual economic downturn, the global ice-cream market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.5 percent in value and 3.5 percent in volume between 2011 and 2014. Europe represents the biggest market, with 53 percent market share, in volume, in 2011. However, when looking at innovations, Europe is second behind North America (in number of new product launches).

Rousselot® is going to introduce innovations in gelatines: Bee Gums™ - new soft gummies flavoured with pure honey; Tof’Gums™ - the first gummy with toffee flavour; Rousselot® Delight – grained and ultra-soft "gummies", Mint marshmallows, and a reduced in-fat-and-sugar chocolate brownie.

Air Liquide reinforces its activity in healthcare specialty ingredients with the acquisition of BiotechMarine by its subsidiary SEPPIC. The acquisition of BiotechMarine will provide SEPPIC, a subsidiary in Air Liquide's Healthcare Business Line, with complementary expertise in marine biotechnologies and plant cell culture. Pascal Vinet, Vice President, Healthcare Global Operations and member of the Group’s Executive Committee, commented: "We are delighted to welcome these new employees to the Group. With this acquisition Air Liquide intends to reinforce its position in the field of healthcare specialty ingredients. The complementarity of BiotechMarine and SEPPIC allows us to widen our knowhow and continue the development of this activity. Health is one of the Group's growth drivers".


Meat products are in the top three of product categories that contribute to the high salt intake in the modern western diet. Within the Top Institute Food and Nutrition, experts at NIZO food research have developed a strategy for salt reduction in processed meat products that targets the maximization of perception of the available salt in the food product. By changing the structure, but not the firmness, of sausages, the amount of serum that can be released could be modulated. A trained QDA (Quantitative Descriptive Analysis) panel rated the saltiness, firmness and juiciness of sausages with a low and high serum release at three salt levels. The sensorial scores for saltiness showed that sausages with a high serum release were perceived significantly saltier that those with little serum release. Sausages with a high serum release were perceived juicier than those with a low serum release. The perceived juiciness is the result of the amount of serum that is pushed out of the meat matrix while chewing and the ability of the tissue to bind water, which is affected by the salt content. The observed increase in salt perception, as a result of increased juiciness, was largest at the lowest salt level.

Metrohm and FOSS have entered into a strategic alliance strengthening the two companies’ leading positions in their respective key markets. In this strategic alliance, Metrohm will become the sole global distributor of FOSS NIR instruments for the chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and environmental sectors. Dr. Christoph Fässler, CEO of Metrohm refers: “Metrohm will extend its product offering beyond the company’s traditional focus on solutions for wet-chemistry analytical techniques thereby benefiting our customers with new possibilities both in laboratory and process analysis”.

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