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Is that a real Gucci? Just check its DNA


September 25, 2013

Scientists have developed 'DNA barcodes' that could be used to authenticate high-end consu...

Scientists have developed 'DNA barcodes' that could be used to authenticate high-end consumer goods (Image: Shutterstock)

Earlier this year, we heard about a gun and a fogging system, both of which tag criminals with synthesized DNA. The idea is that when those people are apprehended later, they can be linked to the crime by analyzing the location- or event-specific DNA still on their skin or clothing. Now, scientists at the Technology Transfer Unit of Portugal's University of Aveiro are developing something similar – DNA "barcodes" that can be applied to products, then subsequently read as a means of identification.

As explained to us by project manager Tatiana Costa, the "molecular tags" or "molecular barcoded labels" can be made easily and in large quantities. Each tag – or batch of tags, as the case may be – is made of a unique combination of "chimerical molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)."

The non-toxic tags can be applied within a production line to a wide variety of both smooth and irregular surfaces, or inserted into food products or liquids, where they will remain invisible to the naked eye. They are said to stay attached (where applicable) and intact well, and can be easily read using low-cost portable equipment in a fashion not unlike the reading of regular barcodes – so no DNA-sequencing devices are required.

Instead of simply being used to obtain pricing information at a store checkout, however, the tags are intended more as a means of verifying the authenticity of high-value items that could be counterfeited. They could even be combined with ink, to verify someone's signature.

According to the university, the tags couldn't be copied or counterfeited, unlike some other authentication technologies. Additionally, people reading a tag would need to know its original formulation as it was applied, in order to confirm that their reading matched it.

Costa tells us that the system is currently in the prototype phase, and that her team is now seeking business partners to help commercialize the technology.

Source: UATEC

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth

This is one of the silliest damned ideas I've seen in ages, ESPECIALLY for tagging commercial products.

Hint, folks: if they're so easy to make, they're also easy to copy. That makes this nothing more than a "false sense of security", which actually ends up hurting everybody, because people will mistakenly "know" that fakes are "real".

You can buy a used PCR machine today for under $1000. Then make cheap knockoffs of the products, put your copied DNA on the tags, and never mind that they're obviously cheaply made because the tag "proves" they're real Gucci.

Meh. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Anne Ominous
25th September, 2013 @ 10:55 am PDT

The source (link) provided didn't lead nowhere. I found this page with more information:

And here is a profile of the researcher who was the project manager:

25th September, 2013 @ 11:16 am PDT

I agree with Anne Ominous as to the utility. Also, if you need instrumentation to tell between a real Gucci and a fake, surely you should buy the fake.

As to inserting artificial DNA into FOOD, uhm.... you first! If nothing bad happens to you for 100 years, I'll try it.

26th September, 2013 @ 06:11 am PDT

Quote piperTom: "Also, if you need instrumentation to tell between a real Gucci and a fake, surely you should buy the fake."

Haha. I hadn't thought about it that way, but that's a very insightful comment.

Anne Ominous
26th September, 2013 @ 10:22 pm PDT

They ALWAYS say it can't be faked, im sure it has nothing to do with them trying to line up buyers of their patented system. Listen anything you can make you can copy. Once they know the formula they simple make it the same way the original people made it.

And maby its not as simple as that, but look at how many things were said couldn't be copied, look at the new polymer money, they copied it within months. Look at all the computer programs that are suppose to be unhackable, and they get hacked. Smart people will make short work of this with new and novel ways not thought of by these people, that or they already know it can be copied and its just a sales pitch.

Also like someone else said, im not to comfortable with the idea of some weird synthetic dna being put into my food, or even onto any product that i could come in contact and potential absorb. But i admit i dont know very much about it.

Nathaneal Blemings
26th September, 2013 @ 11:04 pm PDT

piperTom wrote:

«As to inserting artificial DNA into FOOD, uhm.... you first! If nothing bad happens to you for 100 years, I'll try it.»

Yeah, because if there's one thing you wouldn't normally find in your food is DNA.

August Pamplona
26th September, 2013 @ 11:43 pm PDT

Anne Ominous,

You can easily acess a PCR machine, its true, but you cannot replicate the DNA if you don´t have the primer sequence - that its impossible to guess even with powerfull computation.

27th September, 2013 @ 08:42 am PDT
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