A company in Singapore, DoubleHelix Tracking Technologies, has developed and commercialized DNA testing for wood, according to Reuters.com. Detectives from the company have been hired to find evidence of illegally imported wood in stores increasingly worried about being duped by a global trade now worth billions.
They bring wood samples into their lab and test them to pinpoint the species and origin of a piece of timber. Wood products are tracked from forest to shop to ensure the shipments are legal.
"This is like CSI meets save the planet," Jonathan Geach, executive director of DoubleHelix Tracking Technologies told Reuters.
Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football field is demolished by illegal loggers, the World Bank said in a recent study. That means that each year, the total mass of illegally cleared land is approximately the size of Ireland.
Until recently, the battle against illegal timber trade has had very little success. Now, with the U.S. and Europe getting involved, and the plunging costs for DNA testing has made it more viable, the criminal justice system and law enforcement has put a halt to the trafficking. New laws threatening jail time and fines are causing companies around the world to pay attention to where their wood comes from, or pay the price of neglect.
Common practices in the timber trade have been mislabeling, lying about origin or substituting one type of wood for another. An abundance of stolen timber depresses prices and slashes margins.
The weakest link in timber supplies is between the forest and the sawmill, where stolen timber can be added to legitimate wood, according to Reuters. In sawmill yards too, logs from illegally cleared forests can be mixed with legal timber. DNA testing would help tackle these problems.
Chief scientific officer at DoubleHelix Andrew Lowe discovered a method of extracting DNA from any piece of wood in his lab at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. In 2004, he and his colleagues extracted DNA from the oak timbers of King Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545 and was salvaged in 1982.
"The DNA is in every cell in a wood product and you can't falsify that DNA," Lowe told Reuters in an interview.
In 2008, DoubleHelix opened shop, and by early 2011, Lowe was able to extract degraded DNA from decades-old wood and get accurate results. That led to an increase in business and they now have 14 clients directly using their services, with most testing done in Adelaide.
But while DNA testing is extremely accurate, the textbook of species has yet to be completed. Presently, databases exist for only 20 tree species, mostly valuable tropical timbers, but it is growing annually.
DoubleHelix says the ultimate goal is to make DNA testing so cheap all companies will do it. Within two years, the aim is to license Lowe's DNA extraction technique to accredited laboratories globally.
Kingfisher, Europe’s largest home improvement retailer, is already using the technology. They have consulted DoubleHelix on an ad-hoc basis to unmask cases of possible timber fraud in their supply chains, according to Jamie Lawrence, sustainable forest and timber adviser for Kingfisher.
"We see this as the way forward," Lawrence said.
Sycamore and wormy maple ranked highest in customer rankings of underutilized species.
Understand the differences in appearance, behavior and price
Q: We are having a problem with shrinkage. We make furniture, but someone else sells and delivers it. This person claims he did everything correctly, including opening the furniture wrapping (we wrapped the furniture with shrink-wrap and it was fairly well sealed) and letting it acclimate to the house climate. When the customer moved in, they said the furniture looked really wonderful, but within a week, it started to warp, open joints and crack in a few places. We are so careful to keep our plant at 40 percent RH and check the MC of the lumber. This is frustrating! Can you help?
Wood-Mizer Products Inc. in February announced the release of Bio-Mizer, a biomass furnace that converts wood waste into renewable energy for businesses.
Nickell Moulding Co. shows that a switch to water-based finishes helps more than just the environment.
AHFA environmental conference draws capacity crowd.
--- Thank you for your patience ----
If you have any issues logging in or any other need feel free to contact us.