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Opinion Is there enough

Opinion Is there enough land for food, animal feed, bioenergy and industrial material use, including bio-based plastics? Due to increasing demand for food and animal feed, and also bioenergy and industrial material use, the crucial question is how to increase the biomass production – in a sustainable way. But how to increase the agricultural feedstock worldwide? 1. Increasing the yields The tremendous potential for increasing yields in the developing countries is hindered by lack of technology and infrastructure, unfavourable agricultural policies such as no access to credits, an insufficient transmission of price incentives, poorly enforced land rights. 2. Expansion of arable land Some 0.6 (nova 2008) to 1.6 billion (FAO 2009) hectares could be added to the current 1.4 billion hectares of crop land (excluding forests, urban areas, protected areas). The figure shows that even in the year 2020 more than 200 million hectares of free arable land will be available. The solution to points 1 and 2 are: Political reforms and huge investment in agro-technologies. Compared to these potentials, the impact of GMO on the increase of biomass production will stay low. On the other hand there is also a huge potential for saving biomass: • To switch from meat to vegetarian food would set free a huge amount of arable land for other uses. To get proteins from cattle demands 40 to 50 times the biomass input compared with proteins obtained from wheat or soya. • To reduce food losses will also set free huge amounts of arable land: The results of a recent study showed that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. • Finally solar energy, which will be fully competitive in 10 to 15 years, is 40 to 50 times more land efficient compared with bioenergy (and biofuels) and also will mainly use non arable land. This will also release huge areas of arable land, today used by bioenergy. So the conclusion is, yes, there is enough feedstock – but … due to the results of different nova studies, there will be only enough feedstock for industrial material use including bio-based plastics, if: • we are able to activate strongly the potentially free areas (0.6 – 1.6 billion hectares) for agriculture and to increase the productivity in developing countries - that means huge investment and political reforms, • we switch to more vegetarian food and also reduce losses in the food chain, • we switch from bioenergy to solar and wind energy and significantly increase the use of solar and wind energy, • we establish a new policy for equal support of bioenergy and industrial material use based on their efficiency, GHG reduction/hectare and employment/hectare (‘level playing field’ – for more information please look at Otherwise ‘Food & Feed First’, high subsidies for bioenergy and increasing population and meat consumption could mean: No feedstock left for high-volume industrial material use, bio-based chemistry and bio-based plastics. Summary In principle there are sufficient and sustainable biomass resources available for food, animal feed, bioenergy and industrial material use, including bio-based plastics but we should change and optimize the biomass allocation and therefore the political framework. And we should invest in agriculture, and, not forgetting political reforms in the rural areas of the world, optimizing our food habits to sustainability and switching from bioenergy to solar energy – to secure a sufficient and sustainable supply of biomass for bio-based products also for the next 100 years and further. Available rainfed arable land (cropland)* 3.300 100 Residential area; road and rail (ca. 3%) 1.500 Cropland today 800 Potential forest land 570 ‘Free’ agricultural area in 2006 and the global demand of area 2020 (source: nova-Institute) ‘Free’ agricultural area in 2006** 570 year 2006 year 2020 The global demand on land use in 2020: ➊ Increasing demand of food per capita due to an increase in purchasing power (more meat, ...) ➋ Increasing demand of food due to population growth ➌ Residential area, road and rail ➍ Biofuel in the most important Biofuel countries*** ca. 96 mn. ha ca. 64 mn. ha ca. 32 mn. ha ca. 18 mn. ha ∑ 210 mn. ha ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ in mn. ha in mn. ha 330 Protected area (ca. 10%) in mn. ha * FAO 2000 indicates a potential of 4.2 bn. ha ** De facto parts of the ‘free’ crop lands could be considerably disadvantageous in terms of natural recources or market access *** The calculation is based on OECD-FAO 2007: It is assured that most of the recourses are from the demand region; yield increase of 1/%a, extrapolation of production from 2006 to 2020 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/11] Vol. 6

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