About this Research Topic
Control of the claimed geographic origin of plant commodities like food and timber has become an important task as the origin of these commodities is relevant with respect to several issues. We can consider, for example, the implications for foods that carry a recognized Geographical Indication (GI). GI foods often have significantly higher prices than food which is grown in non-specific areas (e.g. sparkling wine from Champagne (France) as opposed to sparkling wine from a non-specific area; fruits, vegetables, and spices from certain regions, e.g. Saffron La Mancha (Spain) and Blue Mountain Coffee (Jamaica)).
Another issue that pertains to the geographic origin of food is for instances when contaminated, adulterated, and/or faked food has been found in markets and needs to be traced back to its (geographic) origin. A further issue is the import and export duty support structures that are in place for agricultural products from certain geographic origins. This is because cases have been identified where goods have been traded under these duty support structures that have actually been produced or grown outside of the specified supported geographic regions.
In addition to the debate surrounding food, control of the geographic origin of wood is a very important topic with respect to the protection of national parks, primeval forests, illegal logging, and all of its accompanying consequences. Controls over timber are not limited to developing countries but are carried out globally (and also in Europe and the EU). Furthermore, wood is used in many ways (from construction materials to tools, paper, veneer, and even jewelry) for a very long time and thus there exists a multitude of interests to investigate its geographic origin. Various methodical approaches, from genetic to isotope studies have been applied so far and will be presented.
The method of choice for the identification and verification of geographic origin covers a wide range of research; isotopic composition, element concentrations, genetic variation, and many others. Generally, to identify the geographic origin, there are two main approaches:
1. Environmental influences (including geology)
Most of the methods applied to investigate differences in the ambient environment which influence a plant. These influences are archived in the plant materials e.g. variations in element concentrations due to differences in soil and bedrock, fertilizers, and emissions (natural and anthropogenic), among many other influences. These variations can affect the physiology of plant materials like wood and foods.
Variations in isotope ratios can result from a multitude of influencing factors e.g. the influence of climate and weather on H- and O- isotopes, but also agricultural practice and water origin. Influence of fertilizers, agricultural practice, geographic positions but also plant metabolism on N-isotope ratios and the influence of emissions, soil, geology, and fertilizers on sulfur- Pb- and Sr- isotopes.
Concerning the investigation of isotope ratios of unconventional elements (which are also increasingly applied for provenance investigations) the influencing processes are extremely diverse - and in most cases not yet sufficiently investigated.
Variations in concentrations of organic compounds in plant material are usually caused by a plant’s reaction to ambient influences and are thus also environmentally driven. Infrared-related and NMR screening techniques dominantly measure the concentrations of organic and inorganic compounds and substances but in a screening (and thus integrating) mode. Identified differences between different geographic origins are thus recorded as an overall picture.
2. Genetic/molecular relatedness of individuals
Molecular analysis related to geographic origin base on the assumption that geographically nearer individuals are usually closely related to each other than distant individuals.
This Research Topic aims to attract contributions from a wide range of research fields to bring together a range of analytical methods and their applications, such as, but not limited to:
• Research on the geographic origin of various plant commodities, applying different analytical methods;
• Comparison and combination of different methods and techniques concerning identification and control of geographic origin;
• Studies regarding environmental influences and their impact on the physiology of food and wood, and the respective plant archives;
• Pilot studies applying new techniques for identification of geographic origin;
• Studies concerning the causes of geographic differences in food and wood, and the influences of processing, storage, etc. on the potential of analytical methods, and any studies into further problems and possibilities in provenance research.
Manuscripts submitted to this Research Topic can have one of a number of formats: original research articles, reviews, mini-reviews on specific topics, reviews of recent books, or short opinion pieces. Contributions from various areas and fields of research are welcome to demonstrate the variability of approaches towards research and, ultimately, control of geographic origin.
Keywords: Geographic Origin, Identification, Plant Materials, environmental influences
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