What is genomics?

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Genomics is the study of the structure, function, evolution and diversity of genes, gene products, and ser ves as a focus to integrate studies from biogeochemistry through climate to the socio-cultural identity of mankind.

Entering into the secrets of life

The science of genomics is dramatically changing our perspective of the living ocean. In the decoding of DNA we have been able to generate information on a huge variety of organisms (including the much neglected microbes) as well as starting to answer fundamental evolutionary questions such as “where do we come from?”. The earliest example of genomics” and its related benefits occurred with the decoding of the human genome. We now know much more about heritable and infectious diseases and, consequently, diagnoses and treatments have dramatically improved. The science of genomics is generally divided into functional, environmental and comparative genomics. The real benefit of genomic tools is that, as the available data sets become larger, more accessible and comparable global conclusions can be drawn about our surrounding environment and thereby permit a holistic approach to ocean management.

What is the added value of Marine Genomics?

Fully in line with the so-called “Lisbon Strategy”, Marine Genomics Europe provides society, industry and many other research fields with structured and advanced knowledge to:

  • improve the quality of life for citizens
  • boost European Competitiveness
  • guarantee global sustainability
  • reinforce the scientific base of many research fields

Marine Genomics Europe is responding to needs from society, industry and research:

UV microscopy of algal cells. Photograph: © J.F. Dars, CNRS
100.2 million tonnes (76%) of the world’s fisheries and aquacultural production are used for direct human consumption, an equivalent of 16 kg per capita (2005). This amounts to 20% of the animal protein contribution for more than 2.6 billion people. The EU is one of the world’s major fishing powers and the biggest market for processed fish products. Fishery production was 7.3 million tonnes in 2003. This includes fisheries and aquaculture in all world areas, and represents about 5% of world seafood production. Whereas fisheries production has declined by 7.6% in the last 10 years, aquaculture production in EU-25 moved from 0.97 to 1.37 million tonnes representing an increase of 30%. Whereas the number of EU fishermen has been declining in recent years, some 526,000 people are employed in the fisheries sector as a whole. (FAO, 2007)

Responding to society’s need for humankind

  • A natural heritage: The earth as we know it today is the result of a long evolution. Studying past changes in biodiversity and climate can help us predict the results of anthropogenic influences on our planet and thus plan measures for its protection and conservation.
  • An opportunity for human health: Biomedicine has enormous welfare and economic potential. The harvesting of the ocean for useful biomedical products and understanding the link between ocean function and human health will be accelerated by genomic approaches.
  • A social and cultural area: We have major responsibilities towards the marine environment as laid out in legal documentation, such as the | United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. On the long term, education is probably the most important key for a full appreciation of the ocean, particularly with the rate of urbanisation continuing to increase with future generations becoming even more divorced from anything other than their immediate environment.

Responding to industry’s needfor economic competitiveness

  • An economic area: a competitive Europe The oceans are a massive economic resource area including fisheries, aquaculture, food, health and medical products, shipping, transport and energy, and so on.
  • An economic challenge through innovative technologies and unparallelled opportunities for industry: Humankind is concerned about sustaining and improving the future of society. One route includes the production of new marine technologies and accessing and developing new sources of raw materials from the ocean.

Responding to the needs of other research fields for innovation

  • A unique laboratory for basic research: The oceans provide unique opportunities to carry out scientific investigations of numerous marine ecosystems, organisms and populations to study the evolution of developmental, biochemical and physiological functions. This will enable, not only a better understanding of the fundamentals of life, but also of a variety of directly or indirectly related phenomena such as nutrient recycling.


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