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Fish market and identity

The child of an expert in genetic barcoding decided to apply his father’s teachings to fish in New York. Reuters tells a story from the perspective of “teenage sleuths”:

The two classmates from New York’s Trinity school collected and sent off 60 fish samples to the University of Guelph in Canada. Of 56 samples that could be identified by a four-year-old DNA identification technique, 14 were mislabeled.

In all cases, the fish was labeled as a more costly type, apparently ruling out simple chance. It was the first known student use of DNA barcoding technology in a public market.

White tuna turned out to be Mozambique tilapia, while Mediterranean red mullet was actually a goatfish from the Caribbean.

Hard to reconcile the finer points of these fish with the American habit of sloshing everything into unlabeled/unmarked wasabi and soy sauce.

I wonder what would happen if these prodigies of identity management focused their research on vegetables?

“It bears on a number of issues — food safety, fraud and protection of endangered species,” said Bob Hanner of Guelph, who oversaw the analysis of samples. Other imports, such as meat, could also benefit from DNA checks.

Scientists have catalogued barcodes for about 46,000 animal species so far (www.barcodinglife.org). The barcoders are looking to raise $150 million to create 5 million records from 500,000 animal species by 2014 — or a cost of $30 each.

Strangely enough they only seem interested in animal species. I smell an ulterior motive.

Posted in Food, Security.


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