November 2016

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Gene editing: pros, cons, considerations and still more questions

It's hard to deny the tremendous possibilities of gene editing. But before we get there, everybody's got questions to answer and opinions to share. Gentec associate researcher Ann Bruce takes a crack. Read the article here.

Gentec CEO Graham Plastow has known Ann since before he came to Canada. She is also a member of the research team on our Genome Canada pig project.

Traceability: important for food safety

Gentec's Dawn Trautman examines the need for traceability in today's food systems. She analyzes Sylvain Charlbois', professor at Dalhousie University, presentation at the first Canadian symposium on traceability and places it into context within the food sector. Read more here.

Changing minds: the growing “anti-beef” sentiment

The beef industry is finally waking up to the fact that consumer demands matter. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist and Gentec collaborator Tim McAllister explains why they matter and what the industry is doing to address them. Read more here.

As he mentions in the article, mixing groups of animals at the feedlot is one of the points where stress interacts with disease. Gentec scientists at UAlberta (Guan, Stothard and Plastow) and scientists at AAFC (Alexander, at the Lethbridge R&D Centre) and UCalgery (Orsel, Timsit and van der Meer) are investigating the role of the host genome and microbiome (the bacteria colonizing these cattle) in susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease. This project was funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, now by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

VIDEO: Eat more what?

Red meat, especially beef, often gets a bad rap as being unhealthy and expensive. UAlberta researcher Sangita (Gita) Sharma thinks otherwise, and has the evidence to back it up.

Gita looks at the relationship between dietary insufficiency and disease around the world. She then creates programs to solve these issues. One project, conducted in Jakarta through the support of UNICEF looked at thousands of children for the factors that most influenced their survival and health from birth through to two years old. The two most significant factors were exclusive breast feeding and the frequency of meat consumption.
Gita’s more recent work looked at 1,000 children in Edmonton, what they ate and if they were meeting basic nutritional requirements. See the 2-minute summary here, or the 10-minute edited presentation here to find out how much spinach, tuna and chicken you have to eat to get the nutritional benefit of one serving of lean roast beef.
Support for this research came from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Health—not the beef industry. So pass the beef!

"Social" pigs to improve animal welfare in pork production

In today's commercial facilities, it's not enough that pigs be healthy and productive, they should also be sociable. Find out why here.

Gentec alumnus's start-up opens for business

Merogenomics Inc. finally received its business licence and opened its doors on October 27. As part of its marketing strategy, Merogenomics will be blogging about exciting advancements in science, especially those in the world of genomics where novel services for the public are eagerly anticipated.

“It’s hard but exciting work,” says Mikolaj Raszek, founder of the company and former Gentec scientist, about current developments. “Every task accomplished during the start-up phase has enormous future value for the company, especially those tasks that enhance appeal to clients. We are talking about popularizing powerful technologies. The breadth of discussions is exciting, from businessmen to doctors to technical experts. We are thrilled about the services we can already offer our clients.”

Merogenomics provides consulting services on commercial access of genome sequencing and related technologies, focusing on cancer biopsy profiling, undiagnosed diseases, DNA sequencing for pregnant women, and personal genome screening in asymptomatic individuals.

Food labelling and Canada's food guide

In this artlcle, Gentec researcher Ellen Goddard talks about coordinating health issues in the food system,  the health/environmental impacts of swapping out ingredients, and consumers' desire for information.

Hot topics

The human microbiome can affect our physical health, mental health and our behaviour. It has now become one of the popular topics to study. Read more in this McLean's article with quotes from Gentec collaborator, Christine Szymanski, whom we profiled in an earlier article.

You know gene editing has hit the big leagues when Jennifer Lopez stars in a series called CRISPR--regardless of what she thinks the acronym stands for. Read more about JLo, CRISPR and its alternatives here. Read more about gene editing here.

However, CRISPR is at the heart of an emerging controversy over whether or not to delete genes for human diseases when those same genes also carry resistance to other diseases. Read more about that here.

Auditing cattle-handling facilities

We've come a long way since the days of racing cows through chutes shocking them with electric prods to get them where we want them to go. Some of the rules are designed for human safety, others to reduce stress in the animals. It's a win-win since less-stressed animals move easier and faster by themselves, the quality of the meat stays high (see our article on dark cutters) and people don't get hurt in the process.

Read here about some of the innovations that feedlots are implementing (and get audited on) to keep humans and animals stress-free.

Key findings from Canada’s first public-trust survey on food and farming

Does agribusiness count as farming? Do Canadians have a favourable impression of farmers? Do they think farmers are good stewards of the environment? Answers to these questions and more are right here.

Meat issues

Do Canadians buy Canadian meat?
And more to the point, are they willing to pay for the privilage? Read here what Leger Marketing found out when it surveyed 1,600 meat shoppers about their meat-eating habits, and what characteristics are important to them.

Irradiated meat, anybody?
Once upon a time, Canadians said No to irradiated food products out of the usual fear and ignorance, even though the technology demonstrated the benefits in reducing E coli, salmonella, campylobacter and other harmful microbes. Results of the latest survey aren't in but the trend is to be more cautiously accepting although still as blissfully ignorant.

Choose your cut of beef with The Roundup app
To help Canadians decide which is the right cut of beef for which type of cooking (grilling, marinating, simmering), Canada Beef has developed The Roundup app in both official languages. Read more about The Roundup here. Download the app here.

Indian cows - no burping, farting, or fainting... it's all in the DNA

India--known for its enormous national cattle herd which burp an equally enormous amount of greenhouse gas, methane--is keen to do something green to offset its plan to double coal production. For all the right reasons, miniature cows seems to be the answer. Find out more here.

Scientists lambast The New York Times for faulty article on GMOs

In a recent article, a NYT reporter claims that genetically-modified organisms haven't met expectations in terms of yield or reduced the use of pesticides. The response from scientists has been immediate, plentiful and scathing. Read the details here.

Time to be generous: Holiday Hamper Program

There was such support and enthusiasm for last year's JCI Edmonton Holiday Hamper Program at Gentec that we will be participating again. Once again, we're supporting an extra-large family of 9+ people.

Contact Jackson or Dawn to donate. Our goal is $500. The deadline is December 11. Please be generous!

The lighter side

Not sure if this is a toy or a punching bag. We're just happy to not be on the receiving end. Find out what "it" is here.



Happy holidays from all of us at Gentec.

See you in this space in the New Year.
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