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,” says 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…
The money earned from a trade that Interpol estimates at up to $30 billion annually is untaxed and often run by organized gangs to fund crime and conflict. The logging increases global warming with heightened carbon emissions, and landslides through loss of watersheds. It causes loss of livelihoods in forest communities and dents global timber prices.
Until now, the battle against trade in illegal timber has been waged with regulations and preventive measures, and has not met with much success. Now it is increasingly focused on using the criminal justice system and law enforcement techniques.
Retailers such as Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer and Australian timber wholesaler Simmonds Lumber are either already using the technology or looking to add it to their existing timber sourcing practices…
As new U.S. laws started to bite over the past two years, and with tougher laws set for Europe in 2013, the number of clients is growing, says Kevin Hill, DoubleHelix’s founder.
Within two years, the aim is to license Lowe’s DNA extraction technique to accredited laboratories globally, as the $150 billion timber industry comes under increasing pressure to stamp out illegal wood.
As much as I hate the phrase, this is a true win-win situation for consumers and sellers alike. Contractors and end users will have verified questions like sustainability. Lumbering interests and mills will profit from sales with guaranteed quality, legality.
RTFA for many details about the economics and science. Interesting stuff.