CFIA investing CA$320,000 in DNA barcoding research

Wednesday, 04 October, 2017

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will invest CA$320,000 (AU$326,631) in the University of Guelph's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario to support collaborative research projects. The collaboration aims to use DNA barcoding and computer technology to monitor plant pests and insects that spread disease to help protect Canada's plants, animals and people.

DNA barcoding uses short standardised DNA sequences to identify and differentiate species which can help fight diseases, expose market fraud and monitor the environment. This will mark the second Federal Assistance Program agreement signed between the CFIA and the University of Guelph. Previously, they worked together in 2015–2016 to develop a DNA barcoding training program that identified invasive species and mislabelled fish and seafood.

"Safe and accessible food and the protection of Canada's plant and animal resources are essential to the health of Canadians. This partnership builds on Canada's world leadership in genomics and DNA barcoding for detecting and identifying species and will further integrate innovative science into the regulatory world," stated the Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health.

The funding, announced by Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph, was provided under the CFIA's Federal Assistance Program, which supports projects that promote the safeguarding of food, animals and plants. It will aid the partnership between the University of Guelph and the CFIA on several projects that will improve diagnostic testing, the agriculture industry's response to emerging threats and meet requirements for international trade.

The first project aims to develop DNA barcoding tools that can identify destructive insect pests to protect Canadian crops. It will also look at using DNA technology to rapidly analyse soil samples for invasive weed seeds, helping to protect plants and seed banks.

The second project will focus on DNA barcoding tools to identify Culicoides midges, disease-carrying insects that affect Canadian livestock. The University of Guelph will also develop software to help analyse information relating to animal diseases spread by insects like midges.

Essentially, the partnership will address the increasing demand for safe, sustainable food.

The Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, explained: "The Government of Canada remains committed to developing innovative science that enables agriculture to be a leading growth sector of Canada's economy. By working in partnership, we can help meet the world's growing demand for high-quality, sustainable food and help grow our middle class."

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