How timber detectives use DNA tests to track the trade in stolen wood


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Wednesday August 22, 2012

How timber detectives use DNA tests to track the trade in stolen wood

Call it CSI: Singapore. But unlike the Crime Scene Investigators from the popular TV series, these detectives are hired to look for evidence of rogue wood from stores increasingly worried about being duped by a global trade in illegal timber now worth billions.

 

They take wood samples into their lab and put them through DNA tests that can pinpoint the species and origin of a piece of timber. They also track timber and timber products from forest to shop to ensure clients’ shipments are legal.

 

“This is like CSI meets save the planet,” said Jonathan Geach, executive director of Double Helix Tracking Technologies, the Singapore company that has developed and commercialized DNA testing for wood, the only firm in the world to do so.

 

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers, the World Bank says in a recent study. Annually, such illegally cleared land is equivalent to the size of Ireland.

 

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