DNA used as weapon against illegal logging

ADELAIDE, Australia, June 30 (UPI) -- Australian researchers say DNA fingerprinting of lumber products can make it harder for illegal loggers to get away with destroying protected rainforests.

Scientists at the University of Adelaide say the technique can trace individual logs or wood products back to the forests they came from.


DNA science has made a number of key advances in the fight against illegal loggers, researchers said.

"Molecular marker methods have been applied to freshly cut wood for a number of years, and it's now also possible to extract and use genetic material from wood products and old samples of wood," Andrew Lowe, director of Adelaide's Australian Center for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, said.

"We can use 'DNA barcoding' to identify species, 'DNA fingerprinting' to identify and track individual logs or wood products, and we can also verify the region the wood was sourced from," he said.

"The advancement of genetics technologies means that large-scale screening of wood DNA can be done cheaply, routinely, quickly and with a statistical certainty that can be used in a court of law," Lowe said.

An estimated 10 percent of wood imported into Australia consists of illegally traded timber, a university release said Thursday.


"Importantly, these [DNA] methods can be applied at a customs entry point to the country -- certification documents can be falsified, but DNA cannot," Lowe said.

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