News Brief

FSC to Use Forensics to Uncover Criminal Forestry Practices

New testing would detect the presence of endangered species or genetically modified organisms in wood products.

Illegal logging and timber exporters, like this rosewood operation in Madagascar, involve organized crime and can cause economic, environmental, and social devastation. A new program will test mixed wood and paper to help ensure FSC-labeled products haven't been tainted by illegally logged or genetically modified species along their chain of custody.

Photo: Erik Patel. License: CC BY-SA 3.0.
Is that “birch” plywood cabinetry you specified actually made of an illegally logged rainforest species? A new partnership between the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service) aims to verify environmental claims about forestry products.

The testing will look for impurities in samples of composite wood and paper products, including fibers from endangered species or other illegally logged trees as well as from genetically modified organisms (which are not permitted in products marked “FSC Mixed”). Although there is “no reason to suspect” that FPL’s forensic scientists will find any of these things, says Brad Kahn, communications director for FSC–US, “we want to make sure we are keeping our system as rigorous and credible as possible.”

Kahn adds that many larger companies already do their own forensic testing without sharing the results, whereas FSC will be publishing its findings. He notes that the new testing will help ensure that all FSC chain-of-custody certificate holders “are competing on the same level.”

Published December 2, 2013 Permalink

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