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Helping governments and suppliers protect forests

Agroisolab is committed to protecting forests through ensuring the integrity of supply chains

As more consumers grow careful about where the wood used to make their wooden furniture or cardboard box comes from, it is also important that companies ensure their products are not the result of illegal logging.

Agroisolab is part of a new international initiative that aims to use science-based authentication analysis to quickly and accurately confirm the origin of traded timber.

Protection for suppliers

Protection for retailers

In the past decade there have been a range of country-specific timber regulations that all require that traders specify a declared origin and a declared species for traded timber assignments.

EUTR, the EU Timber Regulation law, ensures that illegal timber cannot be sold on EU markets. All sizes of company are affected by this law and must take steps to make sure all their timber is from a legal source, regardless of whether the timber is imported from outside of the EU.

Timber regulations include:

  • EUTR (EU)

  • Lacey Act (US)

  • FLEGT (Indonesia)


15 – 30% of traded timber is believed to be illegal. Agroisolab offers isotope testing to assist companies in carrying out due diligence on their products and supplies and ensuring compliance with EUTR and timber laws.

We also offer a risk assessment service or a consulting service to intergrate SIRA within existing supply chain risk assessment.

Agroisolab is able to employ stable isotope testing to test products off the shelf, such as furniture. The advantage of this is ensuring that your supplier is complying with EUTR rules and protecting the reputation of your company.

With the growing consumer awareness around the origin of timber, it is important to ensure that your company is not unintentionally trading illegal timber.

Stable isotope analysis is a very useful retail tool. We are able to test a large range of retail products, including furniture, flooring, kitchenware (chopping boards, wooden spoons ect.) and also musical instruments.

In building construction and property maintainance, SIRA has a particular virtue in being able to support the many contracts of suppliers' criteria that define the origins of timber required for particular building contracts - especially since building designs increasingly include timber sustainability criteria as part of the requirements.

Why use isotope testing to verify the origin of timber?

Currently, timber must be accompanied by shipping and supply chain documentation that verifies the country of origin, rather than an independent inspection – a process that is considered by WWF to be a “loophole” in timber traceability.

Isotope testing is recognised by WWF as an important forensic tool to fight the illegal timber trade and provide supporting evidence of legitimate trade.

To combat the illegal trade in timber, Agroisolab uses isotope testing to verify whether a tested sample of timber matches its declared origin, and works with a network of laboratories that offer testing for the species of timber.

What timber can Agroisolab test?

Agroisolab currently has stable isotope data for the following species. Please click to see which countries we can test from for each species.

  • Origin verification
    Analysis of the stable isotope ratios of oxygen are used as a standard method to verify the geographic origin of wine. Oxygen isotope ratios are also helpful to determine if additional water has been added to the wine. Prof. Dr. Förstel, one of the founders of Agroisolab, was one of the leading scientists involved in the development of this method [Förstel 1991]. Determination of the oxygen isotope ratios in wine have played a crucial role in the European wine databank. According to regulation EU 2729/2000, 400 samples of wine are analysed annually by member states to regulate the wine market. This analytical method is part of the compendium of international methods of wine analysis (OIV). *Holbach B. Förstel H. (1991) Das Verhältnis der Stabil isotopen 18O und 16O zur Beurteilung von Auslandswein. 198: 223-229.
  • Water addition
    Isotope analysed: 18O/16O (ethanol) This analytical method is used to detect water addition in wine. Recent research (Camin, 2013) has confirmed the existence of a correlation between the stable isotope ratios of oxygen in ethanol and the water component of wine. *Perini M. Camin F. (2013) 18O of ethanol in wine and spirits for authentication purposes. Journal of Food Science. 78, 839-844.
  • Sugar addition
    Isotope analysed:13C/12C Method: OIV-MA-AS312-06 This method enables the measurement of 13C/12C isotope ratios in wine ethanol and ethanol derived from the fermentation of vine products (musts, concentrated musts, grape sugar). It is used to detect addition of external sugar (mainly C4 sugars) in wine/musts which is not permitted in various countries. This analytical method is part of the compendium of international methods of wine analysis (OIV).
  • Undeclared sugar addition
    Isotope analysed: D/H EEC No: 000/90 This analytical method is used to determine the addition of sugar (e.g. beet sugar) to wine and was established as an official method in the European Commission regulation (EC) No. 000 / 90. This method is normally combined with the analysis of 13C/12C isotope ratios.
  • Fossil fuel CO2
    Isotope analysed:13C/12C Method: OIV-MA-AS314-03 This method is used to determine 13C/12C isotope ratios in the carbon dioxide of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines (e.g. Prosecco). According to European regulation, carbon dioxide in sparkling and semi-sparkling wines should originate from the fermentation process. Addition of exogenous carbon dioxide (e.g. industrial CO2) is not permitted in sparkling and semi-sparkling wines. This analytical method is part of the compendium of international methods of wine analysis (OIV).

Interested in testing timber with us? For more information, contact us.

Agroisolab timber projects

Agroisolab are experts in analysing the origin of timber. As such, we have been involved in numerous projects, including:

The US oak project - The US Forestry Service, USAid and the US State Department for Conservation and Water (Forestry) funded a drive to build a library of timber samples which will benefit technologies used to combat illegal logging. Agroisolab assisted by collecting oak samples for reference databases.

ITTO project Agroisolab took part in the ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organisation) project, organised by GTTN to develop and implement a timber tracking system using stable isotopes and DNA. Agroisolab built a reference database of Iroko (Milicia excelsa) from various African countries.

WWF project using stable isotopes and DNA – Agroisolab GmbH provided isotope testing to verify or disprove the origin declarations of timber products in WWF’s project.

The Latin America Project 2018 - Expanding from the US Oak Project this 2018 project will collect reference samples of five species from four Latin America countries - Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru .

Honduras flag pattern on the fabric text
Peru flag pattern on the fabric texture
Nicaragua flag pattern on the fabric tex
Guatemala flag pattern on the fabric tex

How does origin testing work in timber?

Water plays an essential role in determining the origin of timber. The isotope ratios of hydrogen and oxygen from precipitation (rain) are primarily dependent on the annual temperature of a location and, to a lesser degree, are influenced by altitude, latitude and the ‘continental effect’. Regional provenance can be determined by D/H and 18O/16O isotope ratios.

Oxygen stable isotope rations Iroko timber Africa

18O/16O (oxygen) isotope ratios in Iroko (Milicia excelsa) timber across Africa. Click to expand.

Carbon ratios are primarily dictated by the photosynthetic pathway the tree uses (CAMS, C3 or C4). There is strong fractionation of carbon ratios dependent on stomata conductance and photosynthetic assimilation; both are influenced by environmental factors such as humidity, light and temperature. Therefore, the carbon ratios in timber are reflective of the local climate.

Carbon stable isotope rations Iroko timber Africa

13C/12C (carbon) isotope ratios in Iroko (Milicia excelsa) timber across Africa. Click to expand.

Geological isotopes can vary dramatically within a country as they reflect the local geology of the soil unlike wide scale patterns such as water isotopes (D/H and 18O/16O). This is due to the fact that they primarily reflect local geological and chemical cycling (15N/14N, 34S/32S). Secondarily isotope ratios of nitrogen and sulphur may reflect ‘fall-out’ effects which may follow a wider pattern.

Nitrogen stable isotope rations Iroko timber Africa

15N/14N (nitrogen) isotope ratios in Iroko (Milicia excelsa) timber across Africa. Click to expand.

Stable isotopes and DNA traceability in timber

DNA analysis and stable isotope analysis have desirable advantages over paper-based traceability methods. Here’s a quick summary of what they have in common, and where they differ:

Robust forensic methodologies – DNA and stable isotope analysis are both time-tested forensic methods. Evidence from both methods has been used extensively in court cases.

End-product test analysis – DNA and stable isotope analysis allow for testing products off the shelf, such as furniture. By testing the product itself at the end of a supply chain, you are measuring the effectiveness of the traceability measures put into place in that particular supply chain.

What DNA tells you about the origin of timber – DNA analysis of timber is a genetic lineage of timber. This is not directly related to the origin of the timber, but is very well correlated with it.

What stable isotopes tell you about the origin of timber – Stable isotopes analysis is an investigation into the origins of the elements that make up the timber (isotopes). The stable isotope ratios in a piece of timber are directly related to the origin of the timber.

Results of the GTTN project - Stable isotopes vs DNA

As part of GTTN project, an assessment of stable isotope analysis and genomic (DNA) was performed as a blind test. Samples were submitted to each participating laboratory; the task was to identify whether any of the blind samples were likely to be 'fraud' samples (samples not from their declared country of origin).

The results demonstrated that stable isotope analysis currently offers the leading solution to determine the origin of timber as it was able to identify more of the 'fraud' samples than genomic

analyses. However, it is considered that combining the two technologies may provide an even more effective solution that using them independently.

The blind test was funded by ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organization) and co-ordinated by WWF.

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