DNA barcoding is a system of species identification that uses a short section of DNA from a standardized region of the genome. It works much like a grocery store scanner that identifies your purchases using a product’s black-striped bar codes. Paul Hebert, Director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph, proposed the system in 2003, giving researchers a highly effective way to identify animals, plants, fungi and even protists.
The approach has wide applications for biosecurity, invasive species, health, the economy, climate change and the environment. DNA barcoding has, for example, helped to protect consumers by identifying mislabeled food and health products.