Today, it must be possible to demonstrate the economic value of the endangered ecosystems, such as tropical rain forest, to society. Molecular biologists have now created the tools to achieve this. To successfully reach this goal we should, however, closely note how the first plant biotechnology products were developed. It is likely that the same road will have to be followed. This involves three main stages, the discovery, the prototype development and the commercialization of the product. The innovative fundamental research will be performed at universities and public or private research institutes. In view of the immense size and the urgency of the task, close interaction and networking between different specialized teams will have to be established. Prototype development is better suited to a semi-industrial environment. This will ensure that the progress and findings of the scientists are efficiently translated into candidate prototype products. For this reason we should encourage the creation of start-up companies also for these "forest products". Only such spin offs from research laboratories will have the necessary focus and financial strength to reach this goal. If, at the outcome, the product is a plant, a lot of breeding will then still be needed before a competitive commercial product is obtained. If it is a chemical, costly environmental toxicity tests will be required. The validation costs of such plants or chemicals are currently so high that only major "life sciences" industries can pursue this path to the end. Therefore, to really capture the potential of the tropical rain forests we urgently need to create all three stages of this process and secure a cooperative link between them.
Was this article helpful?