back to article Boffins put encrypted bio-copyright watermarks in beer DNA

German boffins believe they have developed a computer algorithm which can be used to hide encrypted "watermarks" within the DNA of living genetically-modified organisms. The procedure has been successful in simulated tests on live beer ingredients. Dominik Heider and Angelika Barnekow of the Department of Experimental …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux, Mac and .....

    "Mac or Linux-using replicant designers can get in on the biowatermarking action."

    Those screenshots appear to be Windows XP!

  2. Stephen Gazard

    probably not legal in many countries

    In germany, beer is very strictly controlled. They stipulate water, hops, yeast and malted barley. That's it. A guy who added Ginkgo (or something else) was not allowed to call it beer.

    GM tagged beer would probably suffer the same result, and besides, what would it taste like?

  3. Daniel

    I can see rainbows

    But the biocopyright-loving boffins reckon they've dealt with this, using "the 8/4 Hamming-code.......

    ...oh look its raining outside and some one didnt bring a brolly. Wonder what I should cook tonight. Did i leave the cooker on? Perhaps a new pair of shoes will help, or a maybe we should just go out for supper...

    ........for optimal performance.")

  4. Rose

    If I understand this correctly

    ... these lunatics have found a way to run Java on brewer's yeast?

    I suppose in a few years' time we'll have the cops breaking down pensioners' doors to charge them with IP theft because they kept some of their yeast from a brewing/baking session to make a second batch.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bio-rippers are here now.

    I hacked some DNA the other day, want a copy before they put DRM on it?

  6. Ramon Casha


    So suppose that their patented DNA gets out via the normal processes of pollination - by wind, bees and other methods - and ends up in a competitor's fields, who would they sue? The queen bee? Aeolus, god of the winds?

  7. Mike Moyle

    Inadvertent patent infringement...?

    Does it matter if their patented GM products are copied inadvertently..?

    Scernario: Genetically "marked" über-maize is planted upwind of a field of low-tech plebe-corn. A year or two down the road, the downwind farmer has a field of redwood-sized cornatalks with "property of MegaGrainCo All rights reserved" marked on each husk and the corporation's lawyers are knocking on the screen door.

    Does the ability to 'watermark" viable germ plasm increase the company's responsibility to keep it out of the hands on non-license-paying competitors, or just increase their ability to collect royalties from everybody else in the world?

  8. Ian Ferguson

    Unique DNA

    I'm certainly not a scientist in any sense of the word, but isn't a strain of DNA effectively a unique code anyway? There's no point in adding a watermark to what is a unique fingerprint already.

  9. James Pickett

    Two thoughts

    1. Why are the Home Office buggering about with fingerprints and iris scans when this is available? (Not that I want to encourage them, of course.)

    2. I look forward to its use to identify GM components in otherwise wholesome food, so that I may avoid it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    First things first, you made me check the date. I thought it was April 1st again... secondly, to Stephen Gazard, the question is WHO would it taste like. And to the anonymous DNA hacker, how do we know you hacked it until the pregnancy test comes back?

  11. Tony Haines


    RE:probably not legal in many countries

    They're modifying the yeast. Genetically modified, but it is still yeast. Since they're not even putting a working gene in, it won't change the yeasts properties (unless they insert their watermark sequence into something important).

    Whether they'll allow genetically modified whatever is another matter.

    RE: Unique DNA

    The sequence of DNA in an organism may be unique or not. Since yeast is asexual (mostly), the descendants of a cell are identical, barring the odd mutation. If I took some of your yeast culture it would have the same sequence (if anyone went to the considerable expense of sequencing both strains). But so would your grandmothers culture, and anyone else's she'd given it to.

    So someone might claim to have the same strain independently. If you can modify the DNA sequence of your special strain in a proveable way, then you can clearly prove that they got it from you.

    Whether this matters legally may or may not make a difference.

  12. PH

    Re: Inadvertent patent infringement...?

    "A year or two down the road, the downwind farmer has a field of redwood-sized cornatalks with "property of MegaGrainCo All rights reserved" marked on each husk and the corporation's lawyers are knocking on the screen door."

    Reminds me of the current debate about the alleged theft issues when accessing WIFI networks that someone has left wide open. Using this precedent, I guess the downwind farmers will be obliged to purchase a herbicide to ensure they don't pick up any of MegaGrainCo's DNA information. I wonder if MegaGrainCo will be selling herbicide?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ethics 2101 - Precautionary Principle

    From the User Manual:

    >> 3.1.5 How to change the properties


    >> To change the properties of DNA-Crypt use Menu->File->Properties.

    This warning should have legal power over Taggers who want to pwn genomes - even after their IP is presumed mutated.

  14. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    How wonderful

    Now Monsanto has yet another tool to protect its IP. I am so grateful to these Vaterland boffins, they really have accomplished something grand.

    Actually, I do hope this system is generalized on all GM crop, and when a farmer finds GM stuff in his non-GM field, he should get the watermark and sue the pants off the owner of said watermark.

    Because a watermark can work both ways - if it is unique, then it follows that a farmer can also use it in his defense.

    Not all ideas benefit only the pigopolists.


  15. yeah, right.

    of course...

    ...the whole thing doesn't take into account that their damn GMO crops propagate independently up to several hundred kilometers away, thereby contaminating previously non-GMO crops. Ask the central Mexican farmers how their crops got contaminated with Texas-based GMO corn pollen. Or the Canadian farmer who got successfully sued because his crops were contaminated with patented GMO technology from GMO fields next door, then they sued him because he wanted to keep the seeds of HIS crops for next year.

    So now they can tell who owns the original? Great! I hope it also means they can be sued when their "technology" contaminates the crops of farmers who don't want to be serfs to Monsanto.

  16. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Seed Companies use SUICIDE GENES

    The seed companies are incorporating a suicide gene in hybrid crop seeds to force farmers to buy new seeds every year

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