DNA barcodes for plants and animals

20 September, 2007

The war against illegal food, illegal timber, or malaria has got even stronger with the advent of new DNA barcodes of more than 31,000 species of animals and plants.

According to a report, the new DNA barcodes also give clues on how to stop birds from flying into airplanes. A scientist at the US Smithsonian Institution, who said that the institution was building up a reference library of species, added that about 350 barcode experts will meet from September 18 - 20, 2007, in Taipei in this regard.

Reports added that a snippet of genetic material, such as a sliver of fish or sawdust from a plank of wood, can help identity a species by a DNA barcode unique to each species in a laboratory process taking a few hours and costing about US$2. It is believed that barcoding could identify a tiny worm on a shipment of bananas and settle a dispute about whether it was a harmless pest just picked up at the port of entry or a more dangerous imported species. The same could apply to checking whether a wooden table, for instance, was from an endangered hardwood species, reports added.

According to scientists at the Institution, barcoding can help identify even trees that have been cut up into boards without the branches, roots, and bark.

Experts in barcoding are currently working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators to seek applications for the database such as curbing illegal imports, fighting mosquitoes, or helping understand bird migration routes.





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