Commodity tracing and DNA

Robert Sleat (Robert Sleat is with Cypher Science Limited, Merton House, Croescadarn Close, Pentwyn, Cardiff CF23 8HF. Tel: +44 29 20540000; Fax: +44 29 20540111; E‐mail:

Sensor Review

ISSN: 0260-2288

Publication date: 1 December 2000


A system that began with DNA tagging of oil cargoes has expanded to provide tracers for such diverse commodities as grain, silk, antiques, diamonds, high value documents and packaging. It has been used for a great variety of purposes. One is the covert tracing of marked commodities that have entered the country as “grey” imports, sold at reduced prices. Other users are interested in authenticating products, particularly in the antiques trade. Authentication of documents can be achieved through the incorporation of a DNA tracer into the ink used to print the document. It would be impossible for counterfeiters to determine the sequence of the added DNA marker, particularly in the presence of other masking DNA. The number of unique tags that can be provided by a DNA molecule is of the order of 1060. Each application is unique and requires close collaboration between the company and the customer. It needs its own customized application and recovery procedure.



Sleat, R. (2000), "Commodity tracing and DNA", Sensor Review, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 282-287.

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Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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