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Plants are political hot potatoes
Date:2/25/2009

A group of leading UK scientists and social scientists led by the ESRC Genomics Forum, based at the University of Edinburgh, calls for joined-up thinking on the emerging politics of plants.

Green is the new gold. The world is waking up to the potential of plants from food to fuel, industrial feedstocks to carbon sinks, there is growing talk of plants replacing oil as the cornerstone of the global economy.

But such fame comes at a price.

Recent 'food versus biofuel' debates are just one example of a new 'politics of plants' that needs urgent attention at both national and international levels.

Writing in the first issue of the new journal Food Security, lead author Dr Emma Frow, research fellow at the ESRC Genomics Forum, and her co-authors suggest that it is not just a question of 'food versus fuel'. Food and energy security are major concerns, but so are safeguarding human health, tackling climate change, protecting landscapes and global biodiversity, supporting rural communities, and providing raw materials for industry. All of these issues are connected to our use and management of plants.

Some of the world's major economic, political, environmental and scientific institutions will have to be realigned if society is to tackle these pressing problems.

"Our position paper argues that plants could be a perfect focal point for joined-up government thinking on food security, health, industry and climate change," comments Dr Frow.

"Scientific advances are creating opportunities for all sorts of new and clever uses for plants as biofuels, plastics, 'bio-factories' for chemical or drug production, and so on. In principle, many of these applications could be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable: a winwin situation."

But Dr Frow sounds a note of caution: despite the growing interest in using plants for new purposes, the amount of land available for plants to grow i
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Contact: Emma Capewell
emma.capewell@ed.ac.uk
01-316-514-746
Economic & Social Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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