Database gets no kicks from cocaine

The trafficking of cocaine in South America is notoriously widespread; it is often where the narcotic is grown, manufactured and eventually exported across the world, flown directly to the noses of our very own bloated rock stars, rich media wankers and Romford bricklayers alike.

Now in Brazil a database is being put together which will potentially be able to determine, with 90 per cent precision, where any given batch of coke has been produced by compiling detailed information on variations of the coca plant. By examining the chemical make-up of the narcotic– specifically compounds called minor alkaloids – it will be possible to determine the origin of the plant, the species, and even the manner in which the cocaine was transported.

Just as every self-respecting wine buff will often have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of grape variety, extolling the virtues of a particular wine producing region, the database could well usher in a savvy new connoisseur breed of coke-head.  Want to know precisely which patch of exotic South American rainforest that gramme of hand-cultivated, artisan Peruvian flake was produced?  Someone could probably even make an iPhone app.

But this is not the only use of the database technology – the Brazilian government are intent on using on using it for quite the opposite purpose in fact.

A team lead by Jorge Zacca of the Brazilian Federal Police National Institute of Criminalistics, has begun to make use of the chemical profiling technology, currently used by countries such as Australia in their own wars against drugs, to fight the influx of cocaine in Brazil.

With the reduction in price of the necessary machinery it is beginning to be possible to implement such a database in region of one of the largest cocaine producing areas in the world.  

Presenting to the International Symposium on Forensic Sciences, Zacca explained that, while it is not yet possible to determine precise origins in South America, his team have been able to identify the route in which cocaine is entering the country by cross referencing the chemical signature of the gak that has been stopped by police on its way into the country.  

They have identified Paraguay as a new route from which the drug has been entering the country, claiming the technique to be “very effective in linking seizures”. More here.