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Fish by another name

The Boston Globe hired the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph to test the DNA of fish to determine their species. A 26-nation consortium at the University compared snippets of the specimens' DNA against a DNA library for identification. Scientists used a fragment of a gene found in a cell’s mitochondria that is short enough to be quickly sequenced, but long enough to vary significantly from one species to another. The technique is called DNA barcoding because, just as a supermarket scanner reads a barcode to distinguish beans from milk, the DNA snippet separates one species from another.

Of the 183 samples tested by The Globe, 48 percent were mislabeled. The Globe focused most of its testing on certain species that have been identified by regulators as more likely to be mislabeled. (Inconclusive results were excluded.)

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