How advanced genetic testing can be used to combat the illegal timber trade

By Melanie Zacharias, University of Laval
The Conversation Canada
February 23, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, International

According to Interpol, between 15% and 30% of the world’s traded timber comes from illegal sources. This is an estimated annual value of US$51-152 billion dollars. Illegal logging has serious consequences for the environment, the climate and the local livelihoods of the people who depend upon the affected forests. …Even in Canada, customers are unwittingly supporting this theft by buying timber with false declarations. In the face of such issues, Canadian researchers are currently developing a traceability system employing genomic identification technologies to help tackle the trade in illegal timber. …To determine the species identity and the geographic origin of a logged tree, researchers take advantage of evolution. …It is possible to assign an individual to a “local population” based on its genetic fingerprint, sharing parts of its genetic makeup with that population and, consequently, also the specific region where it originates from.

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