Using DNA to help against illegal logging

illegal logging 2 June, 2013.jpgAustralia is currently considering legislation to prevent the importation of illegally logged wood. Researchers Andrew Lowe and Hugh Cross are developing a series of DNA methods: DNA fingerprinting, genographic analysis and DNA barcoding. Genes have been developed that reliably differentiates between species. Source of origin can then be determined through critical differences that exist in climate, soils, seed, pollen and local selection pressures. Apparently, according to the researchers, these 'interactions' will produce genetic variations which can then be matched.

In a nice example of the power of this approach, an angler was disqualified from a fishing competition when tests on the fish he presented identified that it could not have come from the river where the competition took place. The angler confessed that he had bought the fish from a nearby shop!! The Gibson Guitar became high profile when, in a similar exercise, some Madagascan Rosewood was discovered at one of their warehouses. The Company was forced to admit that they were using a trade restricted species.

The advancement of these techniques means that large scale DNA screening can now be done cheaply and quickly. Some of the accompanying legislation now has real teeth in Europe and the US.

Bring it on in Australia