At DoubleHelix, our goal is to secure sustainability through innovative thinking and transparency through the application of new technology. The application of DNA testing within the CertiSource system has changed significantly as the technology has developed over the years. As change continues apace at DoubleHelix, we would like to take this opportunity to correct potential misconceptions that have arisen during the rapid growth and expansion of both DoubleHelix and CertiSource.

The origins of CertiSource and first use of DNA in timber chain-of-custody
CertiSource predates DoubleHelix and was launched in the Australian market in March 2007. The launch was made in partnership with CertiSource’s main customer at the time which was Simmonds Lumber. At that time DNA tests were conducted on logs in the supply chain with partners at the National University of Singapore.

This groundbreaking work was significant in two ways; that the supply chain should be constructed in a manner that allowed for scientific verification – what we call a batch-based approach – and that the costs of applying the DNA tests were affordable and effective.

Whilst the technological approach was well received, consultation with the likes of WWF and Greenpeace highlighted to us that it was essential to separate the audit function (Certification Body) from the Certification Standard (CertiSource). From this insight, Double Helix Tracking Technologies was born.

Since inception in 2008, DoubleHelix was committed to attaining accreditation against a credible standard to govern our approach to acting as a Certification Body for the CertiSource Legality Assessment System in Indonesia. This decision gave us the opportunity to formalize operational and quality processes for the unique batch-based auditing approach – a lengthy and detailed process for a small business. In 2010 we attained accreditation to ISO/IEC Guide 65: General requirements for bodies operating product certification systems, with the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) providing the accreditation.

Further R&D for DNA testing in Chain-of-Custody
DNA testing for merbau logs in the CertiSource system garnered a great deal of interest at the time. We were supported in further investment in this cutting edge application of DNA technology to timber supply chains with a grant from the Singapore Government of S$250,000 for Proof of Concept.

Partnering now with world class researchers at the Thünen Institute in Hamburg and Adelaide University, our Proof of Concept research independently demonstrated the use of DNA testing in timber supply chain management using CertiSource as the means to field-test the system.

Results of our testing were published in trade and scientific journals including the International Tropical Timber Organisation journal and the peer-reviewed scientific journal Silvae Genetica (2010).

By this time, DoubleHelix had grown to become a global service provider of innovative timber supply chain solutions and DNA verification services, separate from its work as a Certification Body to CertiSource.

In 2012 we completed a new innovative application of DNA to timber compliance. Funded by the Washington DC-based World Resources Institute, we conducted DNA screening of merbau products sold in Australia, which also included CertiSource product. Mystery shoppers purchased merbau products sold with origin claims across retailers in Australia. All samples were blind tested in Germany using a genographic map developed in partnership with the Thunen Institute and funded by the German Government.

To support this development, an additional US$750,000 was invested from the German Government and other donors and plans are underway for a larger screening programme planned for 2015 supported by the Indonesian and Australian governments.

R&D continues to broaden the application of DNA into timber supply chains as the scientific work undertaken by DoubleHelix and partners continues to demonstrate real value for the industry and timber resource conservation.

Formalized inclusion into certified chain-of-custody
When it came to accreditation of DoubleHelix as a Certification Body, there was much discussion on the continued R&D in DNA testing for wood products with our accreditation partners JAS-ANZ. Due to the cutting-edge nature of DNA testing of wood products, testing was conducted in research rather than service laboratories and therefore not subject to strict quality systems demanded by the accreditation scheme. To acknowledge this it was decided with JAS-ANZ to make DNA testing a voluntary and optional component of the CertiSource system, out of the scope of ISO accreditation.

Steps were taken to announce the change from mandatory to optional DNA testing through direct communication to clients and partners. However it has since come to our attention that key documents were not updated. The CertiSource Standard v3.03 and DoubleHelix promotional material continued to describe DNA testing as a mandatory and core component of the system. Steps are now being taken to correct these errors:

  • Indicator II.V.2.1.5, which requires DNA profiles of 5% of matched sample pairs from sawmill and concession logs to match set thresholds is now amended with immediate effect as optional.
  • All existing promotional material that does not refer to DNA testing as voluntary or optional has been withdrawn from circulation. (Please note that documents published prior to 2011 and available in the public domain will still refer to DNA testing as a core component of the CertiSource system).

The following valid certificates have been issued without fulfilling the requirements of DNA testing as per Indicator II.V.2.1.5 of CLAS 3.03:

No. Certificate No. Verified Legal Forests
1. CS-DX-13004-MAK-FM Teluk Bintuni Mina Agro Karya
2. CS-DX-14058-BBU-FM Bina Balantak Utama
3. CS-DX-13007-BTS-FM Batasan
4. CS-DX-13015-MML-FM Manokwari Mandiri Lestari
5. CS-DX-14028-KJB-FM Karya Jaya Berdikari
6. CS-DX-14062-APN-FM Asco Prima Nusantara
No. Certificate No. Verified Sawmills
1. CS-DX-14016-BKI-PS Berau Karya Indah
2. CS-DX-14015-BKI-SS Berau Karya Indah
3. CS-DX-14055-CJS-SS Cipta Jaya Sentosa
4. CS-DX-14014-DCK-SS Daya Cipta Karya Sempurna
5. CS-DX-5002-HAS-SS Haswin Hijau Perkasa
6. CS-DX-14011-IFU-SS Indo Furnitama Raya
7. CS-DX-5005-JMR-SS Jati Makmur
8. CS-DX-14033-LMS-SS Larasati Multisentosa
9. CS-DX-14001-SDT-PS Semarak Dharma Timber
10. CS-DX-5003-SFM-SS Seng Fong Moulding Perkasa
11. CS-DX-14060-UNI-PS Uni Raya Timber

All clients and buyers can be assured that the status of all certificates will remain unchanged. We believe that CertiSource offers the strongest and most secure CoC system in the world, even without DNA testing, because it is the only batch-based system. This means that each pallet of CertiSource timber is traceable back to specific batches of logs harvested from CertiSource certified forest sources.

Important next steps
Formal inclusion of DNA testing into the audit requirements for CertiSource is essential in the next steps for timber certification, not just in Indonesia but globally. We are now working to re-introduce DNA testing as a mandatory component of the CertiSource system through the following actions:

  • All laboratories conducting tests to support CertiSource certification are implementing policies and procedures equivalent to ISO 17025 for testing and calibration laboratories.
  • JAS-ANZ will assess the sufficiency of these measures as part of continued DoubleHelix accreditation once these systems are set up.
  • Once re-introduced, DNA testing will be applied more extensively than ever before, verifying CoC documentation all the way back to stump.
  • Until JAS-ANZ is satisfied that testing laboratories comply with accreditation standards, DNA testing will remain a voluntary and optional component of CLAS 3.03 and CLAS 4.03, which has now been launched.

We are also now embarking on additional investment to improve the application of DNA tests as part of timber certification systems (including CertiSource). These include:

  • Development of improved genetic markers for DNA fingerprinting and genographic mapping.
  • Capacity building with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry to enable in-country testing capability.
  • Establishment of a centralized DNA extraction laboratory in Singapore.
  • Formalization of procedures for DNA inclusion as part of CoC such that they can be applied outside of CertiSource and into other supply chains and Standards. We are working with the FSC to pilot integration of DNA testing into the FSC Chain-of-Custody system and a similar approach is being applied in several supply chains in Africa.

The genesis for all this has been and continues to be the research and development conducted alongside our role as Certification Body for CertiSource. If you have any questions about the past, present or future role of DNA testing in the CertiSource system, please contact Darren Thomas at +65 6227 9706 or darren@doublehelixtracking.com.