Flax is becoming a very popular food ingredient. For example, flax seed is rich in omega-3, which is implicated in human brain functions, reducing “bad” cholesterol, and moderating the risk of heart disease. Flax seed is also a rich source of plant-estrogens, which are associated with reduced risks of some cancers. Flax seeds are used in many industrial processes, including linoleum, solvents, paints, car panels and composites. Flax is an unusual crop in that it yields two different kinds of product—seed and fibres. The straw produces a strong and longlasting fibre that is used to make linen cloth, one of its ancient applications; flax fibre is also used to replace fibre-glass in composites, and in the manufacture of fire logs, paper and other similar products.
Our project—Total-Utilization Flax Genomics—aims at enhancing the usefulness, and versatility of flax by developing strong genomics research as a base for enabling flax breeding and improvement. Canada is the world’s largest producer of flax, which places the onus on us to lead flax research and development. Our goal is to help develop flax as a dual-purpose crop providing both seeds and straw products of unmatched quality and high value.
Our project will develop genomic research methods that will be used to study important questions regarding the biology and technology of flax growth. We will determine the DNA sequence of the entire flax genome, the largest such contribution by any Canadian research team. We will develop genetic and physical maps outlining the position and relationship of genes that are important for improved flax usefulness. This research will be conducted by a team of experts located across Canada. A second team will perform data analysis and management, and will develop software to preserve and present the new data, which will be made available to the international research community in order to foster and stimulate flax research all over the world.
We expect that this research project will create information and genomic tools that will accelerate flax research and create opportunities for advancements on flax yield and applications that were undreamt of only a short while ago.
Integrated GE3LS Research: Assessing the Impact of Canadian Regulations Regarding Plants with Novel Traits (PNTs).
GE3LS Project Leaders: Peter Phillips and Stuart Smyth, University of Saskatchewan
The aim of this genomics research project is to enable and improve flax breeding so as to produce both seeds and straw products of high quality and value. However, the application of genomic methods to enhance crop plants raises important considerations that touch on the interaction of science and society.
We will assess the impact of the current Canadian approach to the regulation of Plants with Novel Traits (PNT). Canada is unique in the world in how it regulates crop varieties developed through mutagenic breeding techniques. Unlike most other countries, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires regulatory scrutiny when a plant acquires a new trait, even if it is not a product of recombinant-DNA techniques. In addition, the definition of what constitutes a PNT is relatively complex and many Canadian plant breeders believe that the current regulations adversely affect their ability to market Canadian-developed crop varieties internationally. We will attempt to quantify the impacts of applying PNT regulations to mutagenic breeding and suggest alternatives where that is appropriate..