The Canadian government has announced a new investment in genomics research that is expected to help improve plant protection and food safety regulation.
The funding will allow the University of Guelph-based Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to jointly create genomics and DNA barcoding tools to improve species identification for early detection of plant pests and mislabelled seafood.
The federal investment is also expected to help strengthen ties between CFIA and BIO scientists, as well as update regulatory programs and prevent entry of invasive plant pests into Canada.
Over a course of 18 months, the CFIA will contribute $323,000 to support this initiative.
According to Canadian Minister of Health Jane Philpott, Canada is at the forefront of genomics and DNA barcoding for species detection and identification, which is key to ensuring safe and accessible food and adequate plant protection. “These projects demonstrate our commitment to using the best science to deliver evidence-based results that Canadians expect from our regulatory institutions,” she says.
DNA barcoding uses short, standard sequences of genetic material to identify and differentiate species. According to a University of Guelph press release, the technique was developed in 2003 by Guelph integrative biology professor Paul Hebert. DNA barcoding has led to the discovery of hundreds of new and overlooked or misidentified species, and has also been used to trace food contaminants, identify mislabelled food and other products and illicit goods at borders, and to track the spread of disease.