updated 3/21/2010 12:42:25 PM ET 2010-03-21T16:42:25

The fight against fake products has found a home at Michigan State University with the launch of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program.

"The FBI has called (it) 'the crime of the 21st century,'" university spokesman Andy Henion wrote on the school's Web site. "The counterfeiting of products from pharmaceuticals to food additives to auto parts accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars in global trade."

Michigan State's program is designed to fill what Henion said is a need for research on the worldwide phenomenon and "evidence-based strategies" to fight it.

Counterfeiting is more than an economic crime against the companies whose goods are faked, the university said. The damage extends to health, the environment and national security, it said.

"We're blending the different sciences and bringing something unique to the table here," said the program's director, criminal justice associate professor Jeremy Wilson. "Our goal is to serve as an international hub for anti-counterfeiting."

Wilson said the program is a response to requests from businesses for help. He said the interdisciplinary program encompasses criminal justice, food safety, international business, engineering, public health and communications.

One of its first projects was to create a database of U.S. product counterfeiting cases from 2000 on, Wilson said in a statement.

Another project includes development of a DNA marker embedded in textiles that could be used to determine the authenticity of items such as purses and clothing.

Major focuses of the program include counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals in Africa and food additives in China.

"Product counterfeiting is a risk to ... exploited workers and it's a risk to the consumer," said program associate director John Spink. "This is clearly not a victimless crime."

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On the Net:

Video and detail: http://news.msu.edu/story/7418/

Program homepage: http://www.a-cappp.msu.edu/index.html

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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