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DNA Barcoding (Video)

DNA barcoding uses a very short segment of DNA to identify organisms at the genetic level. Because no two species have the same DNA, this segment acts like the black stripes of the Universal Product Code (UPC) to create a unique identification sequence. Once the DNA barcodes are created, researchers then record them in databases to produce an accurate catalogue of life on earth.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is taking the lead on creating and adding thousands of DNA barcodes to national and international databases. The benefits to the Canadian agricultural sector are many. Learn how this work helps to protect our crops and agricultural exports.

Video Transcript

[High tech background music starts and continues throughout]

[A maple leaf appears over a background photo of petrie dishes]

Text on screen: DNA Barcoding

[Cut to silhouettes of various plants, animals and insects with an overlay graphic of coloured DNA strands]

Narrator: DNA is a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions of an organism, and it is unique to each species. DNA barcoding is a method that uses an organisms DNA to identify it as belonging to a certain species.

[Dissolve to a single coloured barcode]

Narrator: In Canada, our scientists are at the leading edge of DNA barcoding.

[Dissolve to two silhouettes of what appear to be identical moths with different coloured barcodes overlayed. Underneath the moth on left is the word "Benign". Underneath the other is the word "Invasive"]

Narrator: At Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, we have been identifying thousands of good and bad organisms, and registering their DNA barcodes to international databanks.

[Small computer screen appears at bottom of screen. Both moths are moved into the computer screen. A network of dots appears like a cloud above the computer, each with a coloured bar code overlayed.]

[Dissolve to an animation of realistic looking DNA strand in extreme close up, turning.]

Narrator: The benefits of this work on DNA barcoding are huge for our agricultural crops, livestock and trade.

[Cut to…]

Text on screen: How does it work?

[Image of petrie dish with blooms of fungal growth. Pointer and text indicate the growth.]

Text on screen: Organism

[Image of science lab instrument in the hands of a lab worker, taking a swab of the organism and putting it in a vial.]

Text on screen: Extract DNA

[Image of lab worker's hands putting an array plate of samples into a table-top DNA amplifying machine.]

Text on screen: Amplify

[Image of male researcher putting an array plate of samples into a table-top DNA sequencer.]

[Cut to Dr. André Levesque holding two petrie dishes]

Text on screen: Dr. André Levesque, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Levesque: I work in mycology. And there are many cases where the organism would look the same in culture. It would look the same under the microscope. And we do need DNA sequencing to figure out if they are different species or not.

[Cut to male researcher reviewing computer screen with a full DNA sequence represented in coloured bars on a computer screen that sits next to the sequencer machine.]

Dr. Levesque: Most Canadians don't realize it but identifying organisms is part of daily life. Well you go to a supermarket and you want to make sure that there're no pathogens in there that we did not import plant quarantined organisms in the food we're eating.

[Cut to female researcher reviewing a full DNA barcode represented visually in coloured bars and a DNA strand, stretched out on a computer screen.]

Dr. Levesque: So it is part of the daily life. And we don't see it.

[Cut to female lab worker putting samples into an array plate at a laboratory work station in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She puts the array plate into a DNA amplifer.]

Voice over of Tom Graefenhan: With the Canadian Food Inspection Agency we explore state of the art technology, such as next generation sequencing and metagenomics for the detection of pathogens in cereals and other grains.

[Cut to interview of Tom Graefenhan standing in the lab in Winnipeg]

Tom Graefenhan: Accurate and reliable identification of these microorganisms is paramount.

Text on screen: Tom Graefenhan, Mycologist, Canadian Grain Commission

[Cut to Tom Graefenhan in the lab in Winnipeg putting a microscopic array plate into a DNA amplifer. Close up of amplifier working.]

Tom Graefenhan: DNA barcode data sets supports the information provided on phyto-sanitary certificates and statements of assurance for grain shipments.

[Cut back to Tom Graefenhan interview]

These certificates and statements secure free market access for Canadian grain exports worth billions of dollars every year.

[Pan of vials of samples at a lab work station]

[Cut back to interview with Dr. André Levesque standing in a laboratory.]

Dr. André Levesque: The challenges that DNA barcoding can resolve are really numerous. For my lab and our group here we are really focusing on quarantine and invasive species. One of these organisms can really cause hundreds of millions of dollars in trade disruptions.

[Cut to several shots of red peppers on a conveyor belt, in boxes, being inspected and packaged for shipment.]

Dr. André Levesque: So we are trying to prevent the introduction. And we are trying to develop tools to make sure that what we export is clean.

[Cut back to Tom Graefenhan interview]

Tom Graefenhan: A recent example where DNA barcoding played an important role was a shipment of pulses to South America.

[Cut to several shots of the port of Vancouver where a large crane is lifting shipping containers off of a truck and onto a large ship.]

By linking newly acquired DNA baseline data with specimen and other historical information we were able to quickly confirm the absence of the pathogen in Canada, assuring compliance of the multi-million dollar cargo.

Text on screen: Absence of pathogen

[Cut to female lab worker in Ottawa at a lab workstation]

Dr. André Levesque: The future is very promising for this kind of technology.

[Cut to lab worker closing the housing of a DNA amplifier]

[Cut back to interview with Dr. André Levesque standing in a laboratory.]

Dr. André Levesque: The technology now is such that we're making if more available and easier to use by a wider range of people.

[Cut to close up image of petrie dishes]

[Fade to black]

Text on screen: Modern. Innovative. Growing.

Discover other agricultural innovations at

[Cut to end screen]

Canada. Copyright, Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2014.

[Fade to black]
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