Science Forum with Dr. Robert Hanner
Genomic Countermeasures for Food Defence
Global food security is recognized as one of the most important issues of the 21st century and takes many forms, including sustainable production, equitable distribution and reducing food waste. Within this overarching framework, defending the food supply from various threats requires a variety of tools. One of the most promising includes genomics, which is seeing diverse applications in crop improvements (e.g. increased crop yield, drought tolerance and pest resistance) but also has a central role to play in the surveillance of pathogens and the detection of food fraud. This talk will discuss the emergence of biodiversity genomics and its broad application in agricultural biomonitoring, as well as specific applications aimed to detect the adulteration and mislabelling of food ingredients and natural health products. Case studies will be discussed that demonstrate the relevance of various genomic tools as countermeasures against food fraud and their overall importance to food security.
Dr. Hanner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. He received his BSc from Eastern Michigan University and PhD from the University of Oregon. He pursued postdoctoral research at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), where he spearheaded the development of their Ambrose Monell Cryo Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research. Robert has also served as a past president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) and serves as the global campaign coordinator for the Fish Barcode of Life Initiative (FISH-BOL). His research focus on molecular biodiversity has seen various applications in support of food security through the biosurveillance of agricultural pests and by measuring the impacts of varied agricultural practices on the biodiversity underpinning the productivity of soils. However, he is perhaps most well known for research that has engaged citizen scientists, journalists, NGOs and regulators in revealing market substitution (aka food fraud), both in Canada and internationally.