Consumerism meets environmentalism in a recently-signed deal between Liberia and the European Union that uses a tree barcode system to regulate timber trade.
According to the BBC, “20-40% of industrial wood production is derived from illegal sources.” The agreement signed and the technology it hinges upon ensure that only legal timber will enter the European Union from Liberia, the country that houses nearly two-thirds of West Africa’s rainforests.
The tracking system, invented by the British company Helveta, tags every tree in a commercially logged forest with a unique barcode, records when the tree is cut down and tags each log cut, allowing ports to track each piece of timber and confirm legal harvest.
“It’s as simple and as foolproof as checking out at the supermarket,” Ivan Muir, the local boss of forestry management company SGS, tells the Guardian.
Still, the system’s not foolproof: When foresters misread the barcodes it can affect the database, Muir says. Also, though they can monitor harvesting, it’s hard to determine the extent to which they should monitor.
“We don’t know what the true sustainable harvesting rates are and how much logging we should allow,” Muir says.
Regardless, the basic model offers a potentially viable way to boost a green economy.
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