New Project in Greece Aims to Decrypt Domestic Olive Cultivars

Greece seeks to analyze the genome of olives to safekeep its cultivars and make better products.

By Costas Vasilopoulos
Jan. 10, 2018 08:14 UTC

The first large-scale endeavor to iden­tify the genome of Greek olive cul­ti­vars is about to com­mence. The project is part of the Iconic Initiatives pro­gram super­vised by the General Secretariat of Research and Technology of Greece. The pro­gram includes actions for three vital sec­tors of the agri­cul­tural econ­omy of the coun­try — olives, honey, and grapes.

The trace­abil­ity of the descent of the vari­eties is very impor­tant because it will enable us to put a label on them use­ful for mar­ket­ing pur­poses.- Giorgos Chourdakis, Spokesperson, Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation

The aim is to fully decrypt and ana­lyze the genetic mate­r­ial of domes­tic olive vari­eties in order to track the genre and descent of the cul­ti­vars and pre­serve dif­fer­ent clones by doc­u­ment­ing and safe­guard­ing their struc­ture. This will hope­fully lead to branded prod­ucts with a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage com­pared to rival prod­ucts in the mar­ket.

Olive Routes’ is the pro­gram’s action for olives and the first of the three to begin.

A net­work of aca­d­e­mic and research insti­tutes in the field of mol­e­c­u­lar biol­ogy and genetic engi­neer­ing will be cre­ated and assigned with the task to iden­tify and record the genetic mate­r­ial of domes­tic cul­ti­vars down to a mol­e­c­u­lar level.

By employ­ing advanced sci­en­tific meth­ods, the researchers will ana­lyze the genetic code of olive trees toward achiev­ing trace­abil­ity of the cul­ti­vars and an explicit view of their spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics.

All recorded vari­eties will be reg­is­tered in the data­base of plant vari­eties of the European Union and new tools will be used by sci­en­tists to improve prod­ucts and bet­ter under­stand their links to human well-being and longevity.

Giorgos Chourdakis, the office man­ager of the Deputy Minister of Research and Innovation, in an inter­view with a Greek agri­cul­tural news­pa­per, stressed the impor­tance of the project in terms of mar­ket­ing and brand­ing.

The trace­abil­ity of the descent of the vari­eties is very impor­tant because it will enable us to put a label on them use­ful for mar­ket­ing pur­poses. The plan is for every prod­uct to have a brand name,” he said.

Chourdakis then described the effects of the project from a nutri­tional point of view: The spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics and qual­i­ties of the prod­ucts pin­pointed by the research could be printed on their pack­ages. Potentially, we could achieve a health claim for some of the prod­ucts and this will be accom­plished only by apply­ing mod­ern sci­en­tific meth­ods in the agro-food sec­tor.”

The pro­gram will aim to high­light the qual­i­ties of the com­modi­ties and cre­ate added value, pro­vid­ing at the same time a frame­work for an improved pro­duc­tion pat­tern. A bud­get of €5 mil­lion ($6 mil­lion) is avail­able for the ini­tial phase of the pro­gram that is expected to take up to two years to be com­pleted.


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