Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain

The significant threat of food borne illness affects nearly every industry on every continent from government and healthcare to agriculture and retail, yet the massive issue continues to puzzle experts. Aside from rigorous testing along the entire food chain - beginning with the soil at the farm and ending with the consumer - there is little done from an information technology standpoint to circumvent contamination at any point in the process.

In a novel large-scale experiment between IBM and Mars, Inc., researchers are harvesting and sequencing the DNA and RNA of simple food samples to determine where anomaly and selection occur when paired with common organisms or genes, toxins, and heavy metals. The index produced from this study will result in a "microbial baseline," or a benchmark representing normal microbe communities, which food and health officials can use to understand what triggers contamination and the spread of disease.