The barcodes, developed by 52 scientists at the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) Plant Working Group, allow big areas of land to quickly be surveyed. Instead of needing a specialist botanist on hand, scientists–or regular citizens–can send tiny samples of a plant to a laboratory for quick identification using two regions of DNA. Eventually, scientists hope that inquiring minds can insert a tissue
sample into a handheld scanner for instant identification.
The process can be used for more than just protection from thieves;
CBOL scientists expect that it will be handy in forensics, identifying
endangered species, verifying ingredients in herbal medicines, and
building a DNA database of the of the world’s tree species.
A similar barcoding system already exists for animals. And the British company Helveta is hoping to track illegal logging by hammering plastic barcodes into the trunks.