Innovation must be of benefit to all
INNOVATION IN forestry needs to ensure that it benefits humankind, and we need to address unintended consequences. That was the opinion expressed by Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International, during the14th World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa. “Innovation may offer significant benefits in improving the efficiency of plantations, but it is important to assess in how far this innovation helps us promoting and protecting natural forests, and more importantly, helps us address the drivers to deforestation,” Gunneberg said, responding to a keynote speech about ‘forest biotechnology for sustainable intensification of forest land use’ at the dialogue about “Growing better trees for the needs of humankind”. “If increased plantation efficiency devalues natural forests and negatively impacts on people who rely on sustainable forest management for their livelihoods, what have we gained?” Gunneberg cautioned. “What is the impact of biotechnology on communityforest owners, what is its impact on our ability to utilise our forest resources not only for the environmental benefits that they offer, but also for their potential to lift people out of poverty? “If biotechnology does not help us address the drivers for deforestation, is there a risk of unintended consequences down the road, potentially leading to increased deforestation as less productive forests with decreasing financial returns get converted to more profitable alternative land uses?” Gunneberg stressed the need to consider biotechnology in a holistic manner, and increase innovation in all areas: Can we further improve the management of the working forests that we have and obtain more resources from them in a sustainable manner? In how far can agro-forestry and trees outside forests better contribute to resource supply and assist in creating sustainable livelihoods? Can we use the forest resources that we have more efficiently, not only in terms of wood fibre, but also in terms of non-wood forest products (NWFP)? Can we reduce our consumption as a society as a whole? “At its core, sustainable forest management is about sustainable livelihoods. Innovation must demonstrate that it contributes to all three pillars of sustainability and stands the test of time.”
■ Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International.