Mexico: DNA barcoding the world's plants


As we reported in July a team of international scientists have agreed a DNA barcode system for plant life on earth. This major project is taking a few more steps towards reality in Mexico City this week.

The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) - made up of over 200 member organisations - are meeting this week to agree the future for the project, which already has over 600,000 DNA sequences representing more than 50,000 species.

Snowdrops and barcode

This growing project could have major implications across biology. Not only will species in the field be identifiable within hours, but it should become much easier to crack down on illegal trafficking.

Plants have lagged behind in this field - apparently the techniques have been utilised on animals since 2003 - but the latest meeting looks set to agree the future for plant identification. The scientists needed to narrow the fingerprinting options that are reportedly: technologically easy, readily obtainable, and variable between species.

But maybe this news shouldn't be greeted with entirely open arms. This future looks set to be one more step towards the sad extinction of traditional plant taxonomic skills.