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Britain considering DNA bar code for GM products

(Friday, Feb. 14, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: LONDON - Genetically modified foods and organisms could soon contain DNA bar codes to make it easier for regulators to spot contaminated crops or foods.

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), a charitable company in Cambridge, England, has applied for a patent on the technology.

"The British government is considering forcing biotech companies to use DNA bar-coding to identify genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," New Scientist magazine said this week.

The technique involves adding a special, harmless sequence of DNA to all GM organisms so a simple test will spot it. A series of additional sequences of DNA with encrypted information about the company or what was done to the product could also be added to provide more data.

"We have been talking about techniques for encoding unique identifiers in the context of GMOs for some time," Howard Dalton, chief scientific adviser for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), told the magazine.

"Any development which would help in the process of detecting and identifying GMOs would be welcome," he added.

A spokesman for NIAB said DEFRA views the technology as one of a number of useful approaches to a problem that will have to be dealt with in the next few years.