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AgroisoBlog

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By Agroisolab, Aug 11 2016 11:31PM

Image: d34S elephant ivory isoscape for Africa constructed with ordinary Kriging based on mean values per site. Credit Ziegler et al 2016.


Agroisolab UK has today announced a new methodology that has exciting implications for the battle against illegal ivory poaching.


A new paper published presents data in the form of stable isotope ratio analysis (SIRA) to determine the source of seized ivory that has no known origin. Previously, an origin had to be declared for ivory in order to work out where it came from, but this new methodology allows for a piece of ivory to be traced back to around 400km, the typical area of range for a wild elephant, even without any source declaration. This is an important step forward in wildlife forensics – knowing where a piece of ivory came from can help determine areas that require more protection than others and assess population losses. The speed in which an area can be targeted as high-risk is refined through this method, reducing potential losses.


Stefan Ziegler, the paper’s lead author, in conjunction with the University of Frankfurt, presents data from testing 507 samples of ivory from various sources, including collections and seizures, and of various ages, the oldest sample being from 1795.


Agroisolab UK, based in North Yorkshire, is in partnership with Agroisolab of Jülich, Germany, and together have produced a large amount of databases, including various foods and timber. Agroisolab has also done work with the World Wildlife Fund in regards to isotope testing timber to determine the origin and help in the fight against illegal logging, and has been involved in SIRA authentication since 2006. The first work with Stefan Ziegler, on the origin of elephant ivory using isotopes, was outlined in 2012.

Roger Young, CEO of Agroisolab UK, said of the new methodology: “We feel that this report will provide a real benefit to conservation. Utilising SIRA in this way proves that the possibilities of this kind of technology are growing all the time.”


“Wildlife crime has such wide-reaching effects, and is such an ever-evolving problem, that it is imperative we have the most up-to-date methods in order to combat it. With isotope testing, we have a powerful and effective weapon that can be applied to a number of situations in which origin needs to be determined. The technology has come a long way since 2006, and we are confident that it can be pushed even further to solve more problems in the future.”


SIRA origin testing has been used for many years in areas such as archaeology and forensics. Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur are elements found in many components of nature – including food, timber and ivory. These elements occur as two or more isotopic forms, and the ratios of these forms is the basis of SIRA authentication. The ratios present in food and water are transferred to the animal when consumed, and can be compared and measured against existing reference databases of samples of known origin to verify the source of the tested sample.


The paper is available on Researchgate here.


Written by: Vienna Johnson.


By Agroisolab, Oct 9 2015 11:26AM

"An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar..." the joke has as many incarnations as there are shades of green, but did you know that you can spot the difference between English/Welsh eggs, Scottish eggs and Northern Irish eggs just by looking at the codes?


All eggs within Europe must follow a universal coding system, this incorporates "Production Method," "Country of Origin" and "Producer Code." This helps assure customers of the origin of their eggs.


Interestingly, the producer code in the UK can tell you whether your eggs come from England/Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.


Production method codes are universal in Europe:


• 0 = Organic

• 1 = Free range

• 2 = Barn

• 3 = Colony Cage



Here's a quick guide to egg labelling in the British Isles:



English/Welsh Egg labelling (Image credit: Agroisolab UK/Charlie Watkinson)
English/Welsh Egg labelling (Image credit: Agroisolab UK/Charlie Watkinson)

English/Welsh eggs have a 5 digit producer code, this is defined by the Egg Marketing Inspectorate of APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency). British eggs on sale in retail can be produced under the British Lion scheme or the Laid In Britain Eggs scheme (LIBE), these are shown on the side of eggs as either a Lion or a Union Flag and may also be on the box your purchase them in.



Scottish egg labelling (Image credit: Agroisolab UK/Charlie Watkinson)
Scottish egg labelling (Image credit: Agroisolab UK/Charlie Watkinson)

Scottish eggs have a 3 digit producer code, this is defined by the Egg Marketing Inspectorate of the Scottish Egg Poultry Unit (EPU). British eggs on sale in retail can be produced under the British Lion scheme or the Laid In Britain Eggs scheme (LIBE), these are shown on the side of eggs as either a Lion or a Union Flag and may also be on the box your purchase them in.


Northern Irish Egg labelling (Image credit: Agroisolab UK/Charlie Watkinson
Northern Irish Egg labelling (Image credit: Agroisolab UK/Charlie Watkinson

Northern Irish eggs have a 3 digit producer code, even though there are 4 numbers on the egg! For Northern Irish eggs, the first number is always a number 9. The producer code is defined by the Egg Marketing Inspectorate of DARD (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland). British eggs on sale in retail can be produced under the British Lion scheme or the Laid In Britain Eggs scheme (LIBE), these are shown on the side of eggs as either a Lion or a Union Flag and may also be on the box your purchase them in.



Producer codes - allowing you to trace your eggs back to farm


The producer code helps egg inspectors trace eggs back to the specific farm the eggs were produced on. If you really care about where your eggs are produced here are some great resources:


Lion Egg Farms website


Sainsbury's Egg Tracker


Chippindale "Where's Yours From?" tracker


Laid in Britain Eggs "Know your codes!"



Isotope testing eggs - taking traceability to the next step


Isotope testing eggs supports origin labelling claims and provides supporting evidence from analysis the product is from the declared country of origin. Tested samples of eggs are compared to a database of eggs to determine whether they are likely to originate from that particular origin.


To give you an idea of how this works, take a look at this Deuterium/Hydrogen isotope map (isoscape) for eggs in the British Isles. This map was created using a reduced reference dataset, though illustrates the difference in isotope region in the British Isles.





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