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Reference Module in Food Science

The Genomics Revolution: Agri-Food Research in the 21st Century

Molly Mitchella, Helina Marshallb, Scott Nguyena, Guerrino Macoria, Sťamus Fanningab

UCD-Centre for Food Safety, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


In the 21st century, agri-food research will be shaped by the challenges it faces and the mitigation measures designed to counter them. Modern challenges to be overcome include, but are not limited to: world population increase, creating a need to address feeding the growing population aligned to food security; the impact of climate change, that can be expected to drive changes in environmental niches and potentially increasing antimicrobial resistant bacteria of importance to One Health. Allied to all of these will be shifts in the composition of microbiomes following selective adaptations across the food chain creating the need for novel approaches to future food production and disease prevention, including the development of disease-resistant plants and animals. There is no singular approach to address these issues, let alone any real understanding of current baseline measurements. Technological developments that are emerging from on-going research in the agri-food sector will go some way to addressing these requirements. In particular, massive parallel sequencing technologies, bioinformatic analyses, and innovations allied to developments in gene manipulation techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 will all provide useful approaches to facilitate the sector. This chapter provides a review of those technologies and advances along with their current uses with an emphasis on food safety as well as a consideration of future challenges for the agri-food sector.

Keywords: Food safety, Whole-genome sequencing, Metagenomics, Bioinformatics, One health, AMR, Clostridioides difficile, Probiotics, CRISPR-Cas9

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