Friday, February 14, 2003

DNA barcodes [New Scientist]
Britain is considering forcing biotech companies to embed a non-coding indentifier in all transgenic DNA, in order to make it easier to track GMOs.
The idea is to add the same unique sequence to all GM organisms, regardless of how else they are modified. That means a single, simple DNA test could identify any product as GM if it contains intact DNA. Since such a sequence would not code for any protein, it would not affect a plant's properties. Most creatures' genomes are already littered with vast stretches of non-coding DNA.
Now, you don't have to be a crazy luddite scientific illiterate like myself to know that they have no fucking idea what all that non-coding DNA does. So while it's a good idea to be able to track down what came from where, I wonder about the wisdom of inserting random sequences into those vast silences between genes (something like 98% of the genome) that don't allegedly do anything. (inserting a gene is something else, because you can in theory tell what it's doing).

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