DNA barcode to crack down on illegal meat

Researchers are using a small sequence of DNA as a species identifier in the same way as a barcode in the fight against the illegal hunting and trading of wild animals.

There is increasing international demand for bushmeat; although the trade is difficult to monitor it is thought to be worth millions of pounds a year. Knowing the species can help trace where an animal is from, and therefore help determine whether the hunting and killing was illegal.

The American Museum of Natural History has developed the technology which can accurately identify an animal species, even once it has been processed into meat.

To develop the DNA barcode, scientists had to find a region of DNA that is varied enough to distinguish between species, and resilient enough that it can be found in leather, bone, or dried meat. They are now building a database of the wild species so that products can be checked and compared. It will soon be possible to identify the barcode from the product locally, access the database over the internet, and get that information back, at point of origin.

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