DNA testing is being used by the cotton industry to prove the purity of the material and help clamp down on counterfeit products.

FiberTyping is a type of DNA test which is being used to check whether cotton products actually are as they are described on their labels. The tests were introduced when it was found that some items which were being sold at high prices and described as 100% Pima cotton had actually been mixed with lower quality fibres.

The cotton fabric can be tested to determine exactly what type of fibres it contains. And now growing numbers of cotton farmers are tagging their crops with a DNA serum so they can be tracked across the globe.

These DNA tags allow manufacturers to identify exactly where the cotton they are using comes from so they will not be tricked into using substandard material. Individual cotton fibres are tagged with gene sequences which belong to specific suppliers and cannot be faked or duplicated.

The DNA tagging system was devised by the American firm Applied DNA Sciences. Once the seeds are removed from the cotton, it is doused in a solution which contains a unique DNA sequence before it is then turned into thread.

James Hayward, CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, said that even bleaching cannot remove the DNA tag, making it an effective way of verifying the source of cotton and prevent counterfeiting.

Innovative uses of DNA technology

This is just one example of the innovative ways in which DNA technology is being used in today’s society.

DNA tests are widely known for establishing biological relationships through paternity tests. DNA also plays an important part in forensic science, helping the police identify perpetrators from evidence left at crime scenes.

But DNA technology is also being used in a number of other ways. Public Health England has trialled using whole genome sequencing to diagnose tuberculosis (TB), finding that this method was up to eight times faster than traditional techniques.

By using DNA technology, researchers at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford could detect the presence of TB in patients and work out whether it would be resistant to antibiotics in just one week.

And genetic testing can also now be used to predict how likely someone will be to develop certain diseases, including breast cancer.