University of the Philippines Los Baños

We all are familiar with barcodes. In fact, we encounter them every time we pay for items that we buy in the supermarket. With the barcoding concept in mind, Dr. Orville L. Bondoc, an animal breeding and genetics expert/faculty member at the Animal and Dairy Sciences Cluster of the College of Agriculture, came up with a proposal in 2010 to conduct the “UPLB-Department of Agriculture DNA Barcoding Project-Agricultural Sub-sector on Animal Production and Health.”

The project, funded by the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture aimed to analyze evolutionary relationships, genetic diversity and distances among common breeds, strains and crossbreeds of important livestock and poultry species.

Carrying on the initiative further, Dr. Bondoc wrote the book entitled “DNA Barcoding: Livestock and Poultry Breeds and Strains, Going Beyond Taxonomic Classifications.” The book was given the 2014 Outstanding Book Award by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), the third time that a book written by Dr. Bondoc received the same award from NAST.

The book highlights the use of DNA barcoding as the molecular procedure to monitor, record, and image biodiversity of domestic animal genetic resources relevant to the genetic improvement and conservation in the Philippines. DNA barcoding can be used to assign specimens to known species and distinct livestock breeds and strains of buffaloes, goats, sheep, and pigs, but not for cattle and dogs.

DNA barcoding can also be used to identify and differentiate between families, and between breeds and strains in most poultry species such as chickens, quails, turkey, ducks, and pigeons, provided that a reference data set has been defined in a local library of mitochondrial COI sequences. The book includes 1,041 pictures and 158 illustrative DNA barcodes of animal breeds and strains found in the Philippines.

According to him, this is a departure from the taxonomic procedure of classifying biological organisms using their morphological features but is not intended to replace it. Instead, as Dr. Bondoc pointed out, DNA barcoding, initially used by Dr. Paul Hebert’s research team from Canada, is now used as a global standard for the identification of biological species.

The barcodes are based on a gene region in the cell mitochondria of the specimens. Standard procedures are used to obtain the DNA barcode sequences and the results are submitted to the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) that is created and maintained by the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

As a quick and inexpensive way to recognize domesticated animal breeds and strains, DNA barcodes are recommended to compliment phenotypic performance data and history of populations, to determine the degree of genetic diversity in important animal breeding populations, and to identify those needing more detailed phylogenetic analysis.

Barcodes can also be used to monitor and manage importation and facilitate authentication of animal-based food product. DNA barcodes should also provide reliable guidelines for conservation decisions and for designing local breeding programs for native animal genetic resources in the Philippines.

Dr. Bondoc, with a rank of Professor 12, is a multi-awarded researcher and scientist. His two other books that were awarded the NAST Outstanding Book Awards in 1999 and in 2010, respectively, are entitled “Biodiversity of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources in the Philippines” and “Animal Breeding: Principles and Practice in the Philippine Context.” The second book published and launched in 2008 by the UP Press in time for the celebration of the UP Centennial, was one of 100 books and the only one from UPLB that was awarded the UP Press Centennial Publication Award in 2008.

Dr. Bondoc has produced more than 85 peer-reviewed articles published in local and international scientific journals about animal breeding. He has also been awarded Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) by the NAST-Philippines in 1997; Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Prize for Young Scientists in the Philippines (biology) in 2002; The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines by the Philippine Jaycees, Inc. and the Gerry Roxas Foundation in 2003; and the Achievement Award for Agriculture and Forestry by the National Research Council of the Philippines in 2007.