Is the Paper in Your Books Violating the Lacey Act?
The tests identified vessels with anatomical features consistent with those of ramin in a page of a coffee table book and in the cover paper of a children's book. These books were purchased from a U.S. retailer and published by U.S. firms but were manufactured in and imported directly from Indonesia. Increasingly rare, ramin trees have been protected internationally since 2003 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Likewise, the Indonesian government has imposed an export ban on all ramin products. In other words, ramin fibers should not be found in paper.
In the cover of another children's book, the tests found vessels consistent with those of mangrove trees. Import/export trade databases indicated that this book, too, was manufactured in Indonesia. Mangrove trees are protected from harvest under Indonesian coastal protection, conservation and forest management laws.
Consequently, all three of these books potentially violate the 2008 amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act.
The Amended Lacey Act
The 2008 amendments to the U.S. Lacey Act:
• Prohibit trade into and within U.S. borders of any product made
from trees or other plants that were logged or traded in violation
of a law in the country of harvest. Products include paper,
lumber and furniture;
• Require importers of plant products to declare the country of
harvest, the genus and species of the plant, as well as the
product's volume and value (this is the "declaration
• Establish penalties for violations, including forfeiture of goods
and vessels, fines of up to $500,000, and prison terms of up to
Even though the declaration requirement does not yet apply to paper, the prohibition of trade in illegally harvested forest products has applied to paper since May 2008.
These results demonstrate that it is possible to detect potential Lacey violations for paper, thanks to modern technology. In addition, they suggest that the prevalence of illegally harvested fiber in paper products may be more common than assumed—three of just 32 products had suspicious fibers.