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Through the Air and in Food

A DNA-based tracker can trace harmful chemicals as they move through the environment, writes Marsha Lewis at Inside Science.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed what they've dubbed DNA Trax in which sugar particles are labeled with a unique DNA signature. These particles, Lewis says, act as a sort of barcode that can be sprayed on to food as a means of tracking them from their source or released to track contaminants in the air.

With this barcode, researchers tell her that contaminated food could be traced to its origin in less than an hour based on the unique DNA code included, rather than the 10 or so days it currently takes.

"You could then quickly identify back to the original source of the food down to the date, the farm, the crew, the pick," Livermore's George Farquar says.