The BBC is reporting that scientists have agreed on a system for DNA barcodes for plants. They see applications in monitoring the trade in CITES-protected plants and also in forensics.

I wonder if it might have applications in protecting against the illegal trade in PVR- or patent-protected plants, particularly if it was married with some sort of simple hand-held equipment which allowed people with limited training (perhaps customs officials) to sample consignments of plant material. But I also wonder how much information can be contained in the limited fragments of DNA that they are using (it might be good enough to identify plants at species level, but perhaps not good enough to identify individual varieties – Alstroemeria, for example, are notoriously similar in terms of DNA when varieties are compared) and also how long it will take to compile a comprehensive DNA database (the current Plant Finder lists over 75,000 varieties of plant available to purchase in the UK).

Both CIOPORA and the CPVO have been looking into the issue of DNA fingerprinting for protected plants – I believe that the CPVO is conducting a pilot project with the genus Rosa. Perhaps we will see more developments on this in the future.