Food or non-food: Which agricultural feedstocks are best for industrial uses? This is the title of the new paper published by the German nova-Institut led by Michael Carus, who is one of the author, together with Lara Dammer. In less than ten pages the two authors analyze one of the most controversial issues of the bioeconomy, also underlined by the recent decision of the European Parliament’s environment committee to limit the share of food-based biofuel used in cars and trucks to 5.5% of the total consumption.The German paper “is based on scientific evidence and aims to provide a more realistic and appropriate view of the use of food-crops in biobased industries, taking a step back from the often very emotional discussion”.
According to Carus and Dammer “all kinds of biomass should be accepted for industrial uses; the choice should be dependent on how sustainably and efficiently these biomass resources can be produced. Of course , with a growing world population, the first priority of biomass allocation is food security. The public debate mostly focuses on the obvious direct competition for food crops between different uses: food, feed, industrial materials and energy”.
However, the authors “argue that the crucial issue is land availability, since the cultivation of non-food crops on arable land would reduce the potential availability of food just as much or even more”.
Carus and Dammer suggest “a differentiated approach to finding the most suitable biomass for industrial uses”. In particular, they suggest to consider some aspects, such as the availability of arable land, the resource- and land efficiency, the flexibility of crop allocation in times of crisis. “This – write the two authors – means that research into first generation processes should be continued and receive fresh support from European research agendas and that the quota system for producing sugar in the European Union should be revised in order to enable increased production of these feedstocks for industrial uses”.
In conclusion the two scientists of the nova-Institut ask for “a level playing field between industrial material uses of biomass and biofuels/bioenergy in order to reduce market distortions in the allocation of biomass for uses other than food and feed”.
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