In the News (from ScienceNow): “The main ingredient of wood, cellulose, is one of the most abundant organic compounds on Earth and a dream source of renewable fuel. Now, bioengineers suggest that it could feed the hungry as well. In a new study, researchers have found a way to turn cellulose into starch, the most common carbohydrate in the human diet.
“Now, for the first time, it appears there may be a practical way that cellulose could also feed people, says bioprocess engineer Y.-H. Percival Zhang of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. …
“Zhang and his colleagues focused on starch, which makes up as much as 40% of people’s diets. The idea of turning cellulose into starch is one rooted in the similarities between the compounds: Cellulose is composed of hundreds to thousands of molecules of the sugar glucose, and starch compounds are made of glucose as well, although the sugar is bonded together in different ways.
“Though the process works, it’s expensive. Zhang estimates that, given the current price tag of the enzymes that his team used, it would cost about $1 million to turn 200 kilograms of crude cellulose into 20 kilograms of starch, about enough to feed one person’s carbohydrate needs for 80 days. Still, after 5 to 10 years of further research, Zhang says companies could do the same thing for just $0.50 per person per day. ‘We do not see big obstacles to the commercialization of this process.’
“Optimistically assuming 100 billion tons of cellulose is available per year, ‘we will have a potential of approximately 4.5 billion tons of starch, which is nearly twofold the annual production of cereal—that is, 2.3 billion tons per year now,’ Zhang says. That would provide up to 30% of the food that prior studies estimate is needed to feed the world in 2050.”
My Comment: If it weren’t for a predatory attitude to nature, humanity would have easily fed itself and been able to devote itself to a spiritual ascent that provides us with the perfect eternal existence.