Government to battle illegal wood imports through ‘DNA testing’

New method to come to grips with sketchy import paperwork

The Environment Ministry has announced it intends to curb the import of illegal wood from abroad via a ‘DNA test’ that reveals where the wood comes from.

The new method, which will be tried out for the first time this year, involves analysing the shavings of wood products to discern which tree species the wood stems from. Those results are then matched to import papers to reveal whether the wood comes from illegally-felled trees.

“Illegally-felled trees are a threat to nature and biodiversity in the countries of their origin,” said Kirsten Brosbøl, the environment minister. “We must use all options at our disposal to stop the illegal wood trade, and the ‘DNA test’ could be an effective way to reach that goal.”

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Dodgy paperwork
Many tree species resemble one another when they have been chopped up, meaning companies are forced to trust the paperwork that accompanies the wood. Reports from abroad, however, show these papers are often doctored.

One such report from the UK showed that over half the goods labelled as American oak didn’t contain any of that tree species. Some 70 percent of the inspected plywood from China consisted of tree species that were not stated in the import papers.

According to the Environment Ministry, the illegal wood trade particularly threatens endangered tree species such as mahogany and rosewood.