The Barcoding Facility for Organisms and Tissues of Policy Concern (BopCo) is jointly run by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), and is part of the Belgian federal contribution of the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo) to the European Research Infrastructure Consortium LifeWatch.
BopCo acts as a focal point for identifying biological materials upon request, by providing access to the expertise and infrastructure necessary to identify organisms of policy concern and their derived products. Organisms of policy concern include, but are not limited to, endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Invasive Alien Species (IAS), agricultural pest species, human and veterinary disease organisms and their vectors, organisms of the food chain, species of forensic interest, quarantine species, species with economic impacts, indicator and sentinel species, species that damage or pose risks to human infrastructures and activities , etc.
Organisms of policy concern often require accurate identifications. Identifications can rely on traditional morphology-based approaches employing the taxonomic expertise and specimen collections at RBINS and RMCA. However, when morphological identifications are not possible (e.g. early life stages, processed food items), DNA barcoding offers an important additional tool to perform reliable species identifications. It uses short DNA sequences as taxonomic ‘barcodes’, which are compared and matched with well-identified sequences in reference databases. If needed or relevant, other DNA-based technologies can be applied to identify the biological materials. To perform DNA-based species identifications, BopCo has access to fully equipped DNA laboratories at both RBINS and RMCA.
For more information on DNA barcoding, please check the International Barcode of Life project (iBOL), the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) and the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) on the Barcode of Life website.