Funding body looking for genetic research projects

Genome Canada is looking for scientists to take part in large-scale genomics projects that have the potential to influence government policy and boost Canada’s understanding of the genetic resources available to the agriculture, agri-food, fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

The organization, in partnership with the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), announced June 16 that it would entertain requests for funding to support research projects that “create new knowledge, … inform public policy for Canada’s agri-food and fisheries and aquaculture sectors and (lead to) solutions that can help feed the world’s growing population.”

Approximately $90 million will be invested over four years in large-scale research projects across Canada, each worth from $2 million to $10 million.

Genome Canada will invest $30 million while WGRF will contribute $5 million.

The balance of investment — about $55 million — will be obtained through co-funding of projects from other sources, such as industry, governments and non-profit organizations.

Successful proposals will be selected through a rigorous international peer review process.

“Genomics and genomic-related technologies in the agri-food and fisheries and aquaculture sectors can play a strong role in boosting food production and international trade, raising nutritional value, reducing spoilage and ensuring food safety both in Canada and globally,” said Pierre Meulien, president and chief executive officer of Genome Canada.

“Canada is well positioned to be a global leader in providing solutions in these areas, which are urgently needed to meet the projected doubling of world food demand by 2050.”

In a June 16 news release, Genome Canada said the agriculture sector has relied heavily on traditional food production practices to increase productivity.

However, these methods are reaching the limits of their capacity for increasing yields.

Future increases will hinge on the industry’s ability to increase its knowledge of genetic resources.

“Knowledge of the genetic make-up and gene functions of plants, livestock, fish and other species, and how these genes interact, is increasing dramatically and can inform innovations leading to economic and social benefits for Canadians,” the Genome Canada news release stated.

“Canada is already leading a number of national and international genomics-based initiatives that have the potential to result in improved crop yields, better food and water safety, enhanced livestock health, improved disease resistance and population health among fish stocks and better management of pests and invasive species that threaten agricultural production and trade.”

“The projects funded through this new competition will build on such past successes and equip Canadian producers and others with new knowledge to address pressing global food-related challenges.”

Dave Sefton, board chair at the WGRF, said the foundation is excited about the impact the new initiative could have for western Canadian farmers.

“Our partnership with Genome Canada will allow WGRF to invest in the best genomics research programs in Canada,” Sefton said.

“Support of genomics for crop research is vital for the development of new farm management practices, innovative agricultural products and improved crop varieties.”

The Western Grains Research Foundation is a farmer-funded and directed non-profit organization investing in agricultural research that benefits western Canadian producers. For more than 30 years the WGRF  board has given producers a voice in agricultural research funding decisions.

WGRF has been supporting agricultural research for more than 30 years.

It currently invests more $7 million annually into breeding and field crop research.

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