Last year, PepsiCo did something that’s never been done before: fully sequencing and assembling an entire oat genome, in partnership with agricultural company Corteva Agriscience.
It’s a scientific breakthrough — but what does it mean, exactly? First, a quick biology lesson: A genome is the sum of all genetic material within an organism. In this case, it provides the instructions needed to create certain grain characteristics, like protein content and fiber levels. Crop genomes can be incredibly complex — the oat genome is actually four times larger than that of a human — and this discovery has the potential to revolutionize how oats are grown, utilized and consumed. Understanding the oat genome means it’s now possible to create more resilient and productive seeds that can be farmed more sustainably. Scientists can also target the qualities people love most about oats, making them more nutrient-rich and even better tasting.
I fundamentally believe that if you have highly capable partners working together with a common goal, sharing technology for the broader good of people and the planet, that is the way forward.
PepsiCo and its Quaker Oats brand plan to harness this technology to meet the consumer demand for healthy oat-based products that are sustainably grown and sourced. PepsiCo also decided to make the genome open source, making it possible for farmers around the world to access the genome and create better, more environmentally friendly oats. In the year since its release, the genome has been accessed more than 5,000 times.
On May 7, as part of its “Follow the Food” series, BBC World News aired a mini film about the impact of the oat genome, the partnership between PepsiCo and Corteva Agriscience, and how both companies are working toward building a more sustainable food system. Cracking the oat genome in just four months is a testament to the power of collaboration between experts, and the discovery likely would not have been possible without partners at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
“I fundamentally believe that if you have highly capable partners working together with a common goal, sharing technology for the broader good of people and the planet, that is the way forward,” says Dr. René Lammers, PepsiCo’s Chief Science Officer, in the BBC film.
Watch the oat genome project film here.