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Posted Fri Apr 19 2013: from Science Now:
Could Wood Feed the World?
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.... For instance, every ton of harvested cereals is often accompanied by 2 to 3 tons of cellulose-rich scrap, most of which goes to waste.... 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."
[Read more stories about: food crisis, low-energy future, technical cleverness]

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