Prevention of Desertification: Tech Developed to Prevent Desertification with Genetically- modified Sweet Potatoes | BusinessKorea

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dr. Kwak Sang-soo (left) and his advisee check the growth of genetically-modified poplar with a tolerance for environmental stress.
Dr. Kwak Sang-soo (left) and his advisee check the growth of genetically-modified poplar with a tolerance for environmental stress.
5 February 2015 - 10:07am

A research team led by Dr. Kwak Sang-soo at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology is receiving a lot of attention with their original research that can prevent desertification using crops. 

The research team studies crops and plants like sweet potatoes and alfalfa. They explain that it is possible to prevent desertification, and solve environmental problems, food shortages, and poverty using these edible products.

Dr. Kwak remarked, “About 90 percent of desertification is caused by poverty.” He added, “Overgrazing, damage to forests, and the inappropriate management of water and soil, stemming from the poverty of the local people, are core reasons for desertification. So, the cultivation of crops can be the most effective preventative measure.”

The research team already succeeded in growing genetically modified sweet potatoes in China's Kubuchi Desert and Kazakhstan, two of the largest semi-arid areas in Northeast Asia, thereby proving the validity and effectiveness of their study. 

They also began the process of decoding the genome of sweet potatoes last year funded by the Rural Development Administration, in collaboration with Chinese and Japanese researchers. The genome of sweet potatoes is more difficult to decode than the human genome, but it is expected to be possible in 2016.  

Dr. Kwak said, “Our ultimate goal is to grow a large amount of genetically modified sweet potatoes in areas affected by desertification in China, Kazakhstan, the Middle East, and Africa, based on decoded information on the genome of sweet potatoes.”

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