Forensic Botany

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SectionI: Plantsin Crime-The Use of Plants in Forensic Science Criminal Purposes

Theuse of plants in forensic science is not a new phenomenon. It hasbeen in existence for many years. It involves the botanical scienceinformation and strategies to solve legal cases and challenges. Moreoften, the macroscopic plant remains play a great part inunderstanding the plant materials within the precincts of thescientific microbiology. For some times now, archeologists andbotanists have effectively utilized these plants materials to decidethe reason for death and existence of the prehistoric human beingsand plants. Plants, for a long time, have assumed essential part inthe human civilizations[ CITATION Aqu14 l 1033 ].They have been utilized bothas attacking weapons and for defense purposes. More significantly, agood number of plants have been applied in illuminating and solvingcriminal cases. So far, a good number of legal cases, throughout theworld, have been decided upon by wholly relying on forensic botanicalevidences. A good example to this is the 1932 trial of Lindberghhijacking suit [ CITATION Coy09 l 1033 ]. Since then, botanical scientific information has been accepted as alegal evidence in various court cases. This section, therefore, aimsto explore forensic botany and the use of plants in solving legalmatters based on their applications in botanical science.

Thereare several cases of the applications of botanical knowledge insolving criminal cases. A good example is the death of Socrates, whowas believed to have been poisoned[ CITATION Coy05 l 1033 ].Platoand others maintained that his tutor and mentor’s death was not bynatural means. Having been a vocal challenger of both the religionand state, he was sentenced to death penalty. He was forced to takepoisonous tealeaves to end his life. Henceforth, in the vast majorityof the world`s social orders, the impacts of plants on human beingshave showed up in courts. Scientific botany was licensed in thecourts of the United States in the Bruno Hauptman trial, who wasblamed for seizing and executing Charles and Anne M. Lindbergh`sinfant child in the year 1933. Arthur Koehler, a United States’Forest Service wood anatomist, researched and discovered that therewas similarity in the wooden ladder that was used by the convict andthat which was at his home. Because of that botanical evidence,Hauptman was found guilty, indicted, and executed[ CITATION Cro16 l 1033 ].The UnitedStates’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) referred the case asone of the successful application of botanical information in solvinglegal mystery that would otherwise be difficult to decide upon due toinsufficient evidence.

Inindictments concerning significant crimes, a legal botanistfrequently asked whether the botanical science has the suitablelogical foundation to be used in courts. In order to do answer thisquestion, realities concerning the history of botany must beexhibited. The antiquated representations of plants in herbals haveserved as legal evidences for restorative properties of plants,including poisons for so many years. Another reply to such inquiriesis that botanical science is at any rate as ancient as the printingpress, discovered in the 1400s, with the presence of lightmicroscopy. Botanical books of people such as Robert Hooke`s onMicrographia (1665), Nehemiah Grew on Plant Botany (1682) andMarcella Malpighi`s on Anatome Plantarum demonstrate thecharacteristics of plants and plant tissues as very important indeciding legal suits[ CITATION Coy09 l 1033 ].

Theuse botanical information in deciding the outcome of legal suits isnot as easy as it may seem. For a judge to be satisfied by legalarguments and evidence as viable, legal botanical tests must beundertaken by a licensed botanist. These tests are propelled by theacknowledgment that `garbage science` had discovered its way into thecourts and was being passed as precise &quotlogical&quot evidence.These legal tests are utilized for the suitability of logicalevidences. The most common test is the Frye, which officially startedin 1923. The test was used in the case of The UnitedStates vs. Frye, 293 F. 1013[ CITATION Aqu14 l 1033 ].Inthis case, however, the judge must decide whether a specialist`sphilosophy is `for the most part acknowledged` by others in theestablished researchers[ CITATION Gue16 l 1033 ].Since numerouscontentious issues emerged about the idea of `by and largeacknowledged` and on account of worries from the science groupeverywhere, a second, more thorough test called referred to as TheDaubert Challengeis presently set up. The test was first employed in the USSupreme Court case, 509 US 579, 1993[ CITATION Gli151 l 1033 ].

Giventhe aforementioned legal cases, it is obvious that the DNA profilingis central to the whole idea of biotechnological application insettling criminal cases in the courts. Bioinformatics andcriminological DNA are innately interdisciplinary and draw theirsystems from the measurements of forensic science, conveying them toan extent that they play significant roles in the administration ofjustice. Bioinformatics procedures are very critical in putting fortha distinguishing proof of plants reported in a crime scene. They areused in re-sequencing of events and interpretation of what could haveoccurred before[ CITATION Hou06 l 1033 ].In most cases, this is achieved through a well thought-out procedurethat aims at matchingthe DNA data collected from a particular crime scene with those ofthe suspected criminals. In other words, the law enforcement can relyon such information to collect evidence and solidify their caseagainst the accused persons. According to Nguyen and Weber (2016),the Bioinformatics instruments and their respectively accessibledatabases can be utilized to evaluate whether there exist a specificgenotypic correspondence between the accused anatomical details andthe botanical data of the plants collected from a crime scene.

Oneof the plants that have been used by forensic experts is grass. If acriminal offense takes place on grassed area, the grasses can be usedas evidences to settle the case. In other words, it is believed thatin the act of committing a crime, especially murder, suspects oftenmake contacts with the grass, thereby, leaving behind some DNAtraces [ CITATION Fer09 l 1033 ].Thisinformation can then be utilized to build a case against adefendant[ CITATION Hin08 l 1033 ].Therefore, it is succinct to say that even as bioinformatics devicesand application are more focused toward the essential product plants,the process also contributes to the scientific botany. As a result ofthe need to establish the botanical characteristics of particularplants, a database is normally created that not only helps inclassification of notable plants, but also discovers new ones[ CITATION Lar08 l 1033 ].

SectionII: Plants as International Commodities and their EconomicSignificance

Plantsas international commodities also play significant roles not justeconomically, but also socially in directing the ways of human lives.Most of the plants act as either food crops or commercial crops thatrequire plantation farming such as coffee, cocoa, apples, andmarijuana among others. There has been a substantial increase in foodproduction that came about because of the Green Revolution thatpropels crop yield as a result genetic manipulation of particularcrops[ CITATION Mon16 l 1033 ].This has been seen in horticulture and cash crops in variouscountries around the world. Also, it important to point out that evenas human population increases rapidly, the utilization of manure,improved irrigation system, and pest control have enabled the globalfood supplies to keep pace with the growth in population.

However,the progress has not been without challenges. The expansion of theproduction of these internal crops has kept on diminishing. Severalfactors that have caused this include food deficiencies and increasein production costs. Between the years 2007 and 2009, the global foodproduction went down by a significant scale, thus initiatinginflation, which in turn, exacerbated the economic crisis in manyparts of the world. It resulted in a downward trend in foodproduction by up to 50%[ CITATION Gli15 l 1033 ].Theworldwide economic downturn only made it worse, resulting into highhousehold food costs, downtrend in wages, increased unemployment,among others. Crop product, both food and cash crops, play animportant role in the stabilization of global economy. Therefore,this section singles out some of the notable international crops suchcoffee, cocoa, apples and cannabis, which is an emerging cash crop,in order to prove the economic significance of each in relation tothe human survival.


Coffeeis one of the most popular cash crops in the world. It is produced inmore than 80 nations in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.The coffee production has offered the employment opportunities toover 20 million people. These include families that grow coffee,thereby, generating lots of income. Smallholder coffee farmers,together with their families, get direct incomes while theiremployees earn even more, thus leading to overall economic growth[ CITATION Gli15 l 1033 ].Coffee is viewed as a leading crop since itis consumed by so many people across the world. It frequently setsthe pace for other cash crops. Coffee organizations, brokers, androasters are making significant financial profits in the coffeebusiness. Unlike other cash crops, coffee is cultivated and managedin organized holdings and private groups in many countries.

However,coffee is also a subject to several challenges that range fromeconomic to environmental factors. One of the economic challenges isthe market boom against which no coffee farmer is cushioned. Theseoften make the coffee farmers and businesspersons powerless againstsuch market dynamics[ CITATION Mon16 l 1033 ].Therefore,a climate change should be taken seriously. The farmers need to beeducated on the need to frequently adjust to the various climaticconditions. Obviously, the impacts of a climate change directlythreaten the prospects of sustainable coffee production.


Theglobal apple industry has ended up being a backbone of stateeconomies in several countries. Recouping from misfortunes in themost recent two decades, the apple producers, packers, processors,and marketers have made significant economic fortunes. The applebusiness reliably produces employment opportunities and a source ofincome to many people across the world. The estimation of economiccontribution of the apple industry can reach up to $10 billionannually in major export countries. People’s wages in thosespecific countries also rise dramatically as a result of theall-round economic growth.

Thedevelopment of the apple export market has impelled the business andhas formed the basis to its overwhelming success[ CITATION Mon16 l 1033 ].Theapple plantations has delivered yearly products for a long time and,therefore, need dependable markets to adjust the supply. In countrieswhere apple is not produced, exports have filled the deficiency gap,thereby boosting the domestic apple markets. Nonetheless, like otherinternational crops, the apple industry is also experiencing severalchallenges. The 2012-13 World Agriculture Report indicates that thecrop cultivators and packers would lose a total amount of $118.7million, which would leave many businesspersons bankrupt and enableto pay their creditors. Several families were not spared either,leading to high unemployment rates and downtrend reduction in familyincomes. Therefore, it is arguably correct that apple has immenseeconomic value and that if it is not well guarded, the dynamics inits market can send dangerous economic shockwaves across countries,thus destabilizing the global economy.


TheCannabis or Marijuana industry also plays significant economic rolesdespite the plant’s unpopularity in several parts of the world. Infact, marijuana has become central to financial analysts’ argumentsabout the international crops and plants for a few but specificreasons. To start with, albeit official information is deficientabout the accessible assessments, there are indications that theindustry is of a considerable size. For instance, around 38% ofAustralians and 40% of Americans confess to have used the plant atone time in their lives. This is common with the young population[ CITATION Lie16 l 1033 ].Furthermore,economists have evaluated the use of marijuana to be around 75% ofthe beer sales and twice that of wine sales in most of the countries.In spite of the fact that the evaluation is liable to impressiveinstabilities, the consumption of marijuana has been on the riseglobally, especially in European and American countries.

Anotherreason that cements the case that cannabis contributes economicallyis the fact that many countries are legalizing its use. It means thatit will become common in many across the world. This will have someeconomic consequences, such as economic boosts since it will begin togenerate revenues legally to many countries. The governments willbegin apply taxes and apply export duties to its products. Moreover,given the fact that marijuana is only common among the youngerpeople, its use will only expand in the years to come.


Finally,just like other commercial crops, cocoa also generates revenue. Thecrop is commonly grown in the tropical regions. About 6.5 millionhectares of land is under cocoa in over fifty countries in the world(Ward et al., 2009). Despite the fact that cocoa production has beenspread for quite a long period in Central America and Africa, thecrop reached the Asian continent considerably later[ CITATION Lie16 l 1033 ].In 1998, theworld production was estimated to be over three million tons of thecocoa beans. Africa leads the continents in the cocoa production,with about 60% of the total world’s production. Côte d`Ivoirealone produces about 30% of the total production. Ghana, on the otherhand, produces 15%, while Indonesia produces about 12% (Ward et al.,2009).


Concisely,it is sufficient to conclude that plants are not only used forforensic science, but also to generate revenues. The uses of plantsin forensic science and generating revenues have been in existencesince the beginning of human civilization. Forensic botany involvesthe botanical science information and strategies to solve legal casesand challenges. In other words, plants, for many years, have assumedessential part in the human civilization. They have been utilizedboth as attacking weapons and for defense purposes in the law courts,food, and generating revenues. Most of the plants act as either foodcrops or commercial crops that require plantation farming such ascoffee, cocoa, apples, marijuana, among others.


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