P. Siekel: Slovak food have a good quality and is safe

24. 06. 2015

An interview with doc. RNDr. Peter Siekel, PhD., a managing director of Food Research Institute, National Agricultural and Food Centre in Bratislava

doc. RNDr. Peter Siekel, PhD. Peter Siekel (1951) had studied biology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Comenius University in Bratislava (1970-1975). From July 1975 to December 1979, he was a researcher and scientific aspirant at the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology SAS in Bratislava. From December 1979 to January 1992, he worked at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology at Comenius University in Bratislava as a researcher, scientific secretary, deputy director of the institute. During 1992 - 1996, he was a head of the Research Institute of oil and hydrocarbon gases, Slovnaft, a.s., Bratislava. During 1996 - 2012, he worked as a Scientific Secretary and Head of the Food Research Institute (FRI) in Bratislava. Since August 2012, he is on the post of Director of the Food Research Institute of the National Agricultural and Food Centre (NPPC) in Bratislava.

After completing postgraduate studies of biology (1982 - 1986) at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at CU, he was awarded the degree of Candidate of Sciences. In 2011, he habilitated at the Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology (FCFT) at SUT in the field of biotechnology. He has been a tutor of doctoral studies of this study program since 2006.

In biological research (genetics, toxicology, biotechnology, food) he works 38 years, including 19 years in the food and environmental biotechnology and safety - wholesomeness of food. He is a member of the Commission for Biosafety at MoE SR, he coordinated several national projects in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment. He participated in solving several foreign projects, projects "APVV", focusing on the role of the state research planning, in resolving the framework of EU projects and projects of the structural funds of EU. He is an expert of the Slovak National Accreditation Service. He completed several long-term internships at foreign universities; at the University of Liverpool in the UK and Michigan State University in the US. Since 2010, he is a member of committee in the field of study Biotechnology at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Sciences SUA in Nitra.

His scientific and research activity is documented in 52 publications in scientific journals, in 25 contributions in professional journals, in more than 60 lectures and about 20 posters at conferences. He is the an author and co-author of five books and monographs and textbook. He is a member of the national professional scientific group for novel food at Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of SR, departmental coordination group of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of SR and others. He gains experience of working in international teams to solve scientific projects domestic and foreign, infrastructure projects in capacity building OECD, UNEP/GEF, FAO, UNDP, Slovak development aid for Bosnia and Herzegovina, 5 - EU FP7.

Within the popularization of science and technology will be doc. RNDr. Peter Siekel, PhD., a guest in the Science Café called the Science in the CENTRE on 25th June 2015 at 05:00 PM. This event is organized by the National Centre for Popularisation of Science and Technology in Society a department of SCSTI SR. On this occasion, we asked him for an interview.

M. BARTOŠOVIČOVÁ: What will be the main idea of your speech on the theme: "Safe and quality food"?

P. SIEKEL: I will talk about food, about how and whether we know them, about quality and safe Slovak food. I will focus on modern methods of molecular biology, which allow us to identify and often quantify the unwanted biological contaminants and counterfeiting expensive input components. Also, the research focused on specific Slovak food.

M. B.: You have participated in the development and introduction of new methods of molecular biology to investigate the composition of food and their biofouling control. In what cases are used these methods and how often?

P. SIEKEL: New molecular-biological methods are used to identify pathogenic micro-organisms, to detect the presence of allergenic food ingredients, for the detection of genetically modified organisms, or also already mentioned, the substitution of more expensive ingredients for cheaper ingredients.

Nowadays, these methods are also used in state research laboratories, in justified cases, also for routine analysis.

M. B.: Can You evaluate the quality and food safety in Slovakia?

P. SIEKEL: Simple and clear answer does not exist. In short, the Slovak food has a good quality and it is safe therefore, that our food legislation is more stringent compared to the EU legislation. After accession to the EU has improved food production, especially hygiene, there is also better availability of modern technologies and also the education of producers of traditional food in recent years.

M. B.: You had studied biology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Comenius University in Bratislava. What influenced You in the selection of school and field of study?

P. SIEKEL: From childhood I was impressed by "Nature", especially living nature, its diversity, variety and beauty. I was always interested in biology and that's why I wanted to study it.

M. B.: What led You to the science?

P. SIEKEL: After graduation, as a graduate of the Department of Genetics at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at CU, I joined the scientific studies at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, aimed at exploring chemicals (mutagenic) on DNA. Later, I completed a year stay at the University of Liverpool and there, at the Department of Genetics, I explored an options for the repair of damaged DNA using molecular cloning.

Nearly twenty years, at the Food Research Institute, I devote myself in options using molecular biology methods, especially methods based on DNA, when examining the ingredients. It is in particular genetically modified organisms, allergens or presence of pathogenic bacteria and the impact of technological treatment of foods for their determination.

We currently use the high-performance sequencing to characterize the microbial communities in fermented products (sheep cheese, wine).

M. B.: Which of Your work achievements do you consider as the most important?

P. SIEKEL: Molecular-biological methods have found application in criminology, medicine, biotechnology applications in the past. Methods using DNA have started to be used for analysis of food relatively recently, about 20 years ago. I am proud that I could participate on activities using DNA.

M. B.: How do you manage to engage Yourself in different solutions of projects?

P. SIEKEL: Due to the minimalist funding of science and research in Slovakia quite well. We were involved in several projects APVV; in recent years especially in calls in the European Structural Funds. We acquired three projects aimed at developing application procedures for the identification of bacterial pathogens and plant allergens. We have gained the means not only to develop infrastructure, thus the purchase of modern equipment and facilities, as well as the research itself worth more than € 3 million. We consider us as very successful in the involvement of the European framework programs, only for the last 5 years we have been involved in five projects as co-workers.

We tackle projects of development assistance for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and many others.

M. B.:  You also worked as an university teacher. What do you think, what could help to increase the interest of young Slovak people to study science and technical studies?

P. SIEKEL: An interest in the study of natural sciences is significant. The problem is the maintenance of graduates in research, given the significant underfunding. This problem, however, is chronically known and also the fact that young and gifted people go abroad, where they find better conditions and application.

M. B .: Thank you for the interview.

Prepared by: PhDr. Marta Bartošovičová

Photo: Ing. Alena Oravcová

Translated by: LŠ

SCSTI, Biological Sciences, Popularization of Science and Technology , personalities of science

Natural sciences

Science in CENTER: Safe and Quality Food