Canadian Minister of Health Jane Philpott announced at the University of Guelph today a new federal investment in genomics research to improve plant protection and food safety regulation.

The funding will allow the U of G-based Biodiversity
Institute of Ontario (BIO) and thegroup (1)
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 support is also intended to strengthen ties between CFIA and BIO scientists, update regulatory programs and prevent entry into Canada of invasive plant pests.

The CFIA will contribute $323,000 over 18 months to support the initiative.

Canada is at the forefront of genomics and DNA barcoding for species detection and identification, key to ensuring safe and accessible food and adequate plant protection, Philpott said.

“These projects demonstrate our commitment to using the best science to deliver evidence-based results that Canadians expect from our regulatory institutions.”

Malcolm Campbell, U of G’s vice-president (research), added: “We look forward to the exciting outcomes of this world-class scientific collaboration.”

Today’s event was also attended by Bruce Archibald, CFIA president, and Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph.

DNA barcoding uses short, standard sequences of genetic material to identify and differentiate species. The technique was developed in 2003 by U of G integrative biology professor Paul Hebert.

Now the world’s largest research program in biodiversity science, DNA barcoding has led to the discovery of hundreds of new and overlooked or misidentified species.

The technology 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.