Why Replace Natural Products?


Discuss the issues associated with shrinking world resources with regard to one identified natural product.....

What is a Natural Product?

To answer this question the best place to begin is a dictionary:

Natural: Existing in or formed by nature; not artificial.
Product: A thing produced by any action or operation, or by labour; an effect or result.
     Source: The Macquarie Dictionary 1991

Combining these two definitions you might come to the conclusion that a natural product is anything made from things found in nature, however this quickly leads to trouble as this would encompass everything, making the distinction superfluous. A more careful approach defines a natural product as a product produced directly from something found in nature, with little or no modification.

This definition includes things like vegetable oil (simply purified from vegetables) and a wooden chair (basically pieces of dead tree), but excludes things like soap (created from oil or fat by saponification) and a cotton t-shirt (made from cotton after several processes). Raw materials, like cotton, are also encompassed in this definition as the raw material is itself the product of a process, in the case of cotton the process is farming.

Why Replace Natural Products?

Natural resources, from which natural products are easily manufactured, are of limited extent. Prolonged overuse of natural resources leads to their depletion and eventually disappearance. This has become a major issue of modern society - a result of an ever increasing population on a planet that remains the same size with essentially the same amount of "stuff" available.

To maintain the world's natural resources they have to be managed to meet the wants of world's consumers. With modern society the resources also have to be managed in the social context. Many natural products are a poor or morally wrong application of the resource from which they are derived. Additionally, high demand from a large population puts pressure on these resources.

We cannot magically generate more of a natural resource to satisfy demand, and thus alternatives need to be found, else we risk losing the natural resource altogether. Hence replacements for many natural products has been and is now necessary.