The lactic acid bacteria are involved in the manufacture of fermented foods from raw agricultural materials such as milk, meat, vegetables, and cereals. These fermented foods are a significant part of the food processing industry and are often prepared using selected strains that have the ability to produce desired products or changes efficiently. The application of genetic engineering technology to improve existing strains or develop novel strains for these fermentations is an active research area world-wide. As knowledge about the genetics and physiology of lactic acid bacteria accumulates, it becomes possible to genetically construct strains with characteristics shaped for specific purposes. Examples of present and future applications of biotechnology to lactic acid bacteria to improve product quality are described. Studies of the basic biology of these bacteria are being actively conducted and must be continued, in order for the food fermentation industry to reap the benefits of biotechnology.