CHIEF Scientist Dr Alan Finkel has talked-up the pivotal role of Australian barley farmers and local researchers in boosting the innovative production and consumption of gluten-free beer sold in Germany.
Speaking last week at the fourth Australian innovation business dinner in Munich, Dr Finkel said Germany set the standard for beer production - but gluten-free product had been problematic, until the CSIRO’s intervention.
“In the year 1487, the duchy of Munich set the standard for what a beer ought to be: made from nothing but water, barley, yeast and hops,” he said.
“For 500 years, it resisted the temptation to water down that standard – or compromise the reputation attached.
“It remains the definition of authentic German beer.
“But for beer-lovers who can’t have gluten, that’s a problem.
“Barley contains gluten - beer must have barley.
“Ergo beer can never be gluten-free.”
Dr Finkel said enter the CSIRO - Australia’s flagship public agency for industry-focused research.
He said agricultural science was amongst the research agency’s “many strengths” including a decades-old program in wheat and grains.
“Harnessing that strength, CSIRO bred a strain of barley with 10,000 times less gluten than the standard variety,” he said.
“Beer made from that barley can legally be marketed in Germany as “gluten-free”.
“And in February this year the first commercial shipment of CSIRO barley grain left Australia, ready to be transformed into German beer.
“CSIRO, with its German partner Radeberger, leapt the high bars no-one else could jump.
“And so, an opportunity for Australian farmers was made.”
Dr Finkel said Australia succeeded in the global market “when we jump the high bar, with science on our side”.
“Whether it’s the quality degrees on offer from Australian universities, or quality Australian baby formula and beef, or quality Australian clinical trials, the opportunities stem from knowledge, ideas and skills,” he said.
“Even those exports that are usually placed in the category of “raw materials” – such as minerals like iron ore or agricultural commodities like wheat – represent astonishingly sophisticated knowledge chains.
“We have learned a great deal from the determined German way and it is very much in our interests to invest in the relationship today.”