Thiruvananthapuram

Forensic technology to tackle wildlife crime, meat adulteration

Ever wondered whether the expensive mutton on your plate was ‘truly’ mutton or a little bit of mutton mixed with cheaper beef? The State government has now given the go ahead for procuring a forensic technology that would come in handy for tackling wildlife crime and adulteration of meat products.

Orders have been issued for arming the Centre for Wildlife Sciences (CWS) at the State Institute for Animal Diseases (SIAD), Palode, with the Universal Primer Technology (UPT) at ₹10 lakh. The UPT allows quicker and accurate identification of species — animal, fish or bird — from small biological samples.

An MoU will be inked with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a premier Hyderabad-based CSIR institute, for accessing the technology. Both the State Forest Department as well as the Food Safety Department stand to gain from this development.

Evidence

Often, cases pertaining to poaching fail to stand up in court for want of evidence, notably due to failure in establishing the identity of the meat in question. This is where UPT comes in. In fact, the technology garnered national attention some years ago when it was used in a poaching case involving a prominent Bollywood actor.

Again in the case of meat adulteration, UPT can be used to confirm whether meat products such as mutton, which is expensive, is laced with beef. “This is a universal primer which can look at DNA from something as small as a fly to something as huge as a blue whale,” Nandakumar S., Assistant Director and Coordinator, Centre for Wildlife Sciences, said.

At present, the cost of sending a sample to Hyderabad for tests comes to around ₹20,000, including transportation expenses. Once the know-how is made available here, the cost would dip to ₹1,500 to ₹ 2,500 per sample.

For three years

The Centre for Wildlife Sciences would get exclusive rights for using this patented technology in Kerala for a period of three years, Dr. Nandakumar said. The lab at the centre was already equipped with the basic infrastructure for accommodating UPT.

Under the MoU, CCMB will also impart training to scientists attached to the centre.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 1:59:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/forensic-technology-to-tackle-wildlife-crime-meat-adulteration/article31834731.ece

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