Point-of-View-SA Blog

Genetic Engineering For Forests and Food

Posted on: August 28, 2009


Re: Current Forestry Conference Mt. Gambier

The production of food and forestry dominates our surface land and water use. Agriculture already uses about 40% of the World’s land area and the next 50 years or so at the present rate of population expansion, this area must produce 3 times the current output without increasing the land area to produce it. Population to our North is growing at the rate of 20 million every 3 months. (FAO) Forests are the key wildlife habitat and still cover about one third of the World’s arable land surface but people in the next century will be literate, computerised and better housed and in Greater Asia, will not tolerate a life of stoop labour in the paddy field. Will there be any natural forests left? Timber yield is driving biotechnology and genetic engineering for forest plantations to increase yield per hectare from about 3 cubic meters to more than 35 cubic meters without cutting into the wildlands, or if World population trends to 8.75 billion by 2050 is any indication, cutting into lands that can produce food. That will be the challenge.
The wood saving technologies of computerised saws, tooth design, chipboard and laminated rafters and house framing are allowing the timber industry to obtain 12 to 15 times more usable wood and paper from each hectare logged in the 1940’s and high yields from genetic engineering and cloning biotechnology. The now well known yellow pine plantations established in Georgia in the U.S. produce about 15 C.M per hectare but the yellow pine in the coastal belt of Brazil cloned from high yield trees produces some 50 C.M per hectare in the same length of time. Similar changes to the yields for eucalyptus, loblolly pine, yellow poplar and Philippine mahogany for paper and paperboard have been made.
All the while plantations make good habitat but the real potential is to prevent the loss of land for food production and stopping the need to log the natural forest lands.

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1 Response to "Genetic Engineering For Forests and Food"

In addition the cultivation of oil palm in the third world, supposedly to reduce our dependance on fossil fuel is removing vast tracts of arable agricultural land from food production. This in turn will require genetic engineering for food crops to provide for an ever increasing population.

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