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Basics Food or non-food

Basics Food or non-food Which agricultural feedstocks are best for industrial uses? by Michael Carus, Managing Director and Lara Dammer, Policy and Strategy nova-Institute, Huerth, Germany Use of harvested agricultural biomass worldwide (2008) Food 60 % 4 % 4 % Total biomass ca. 10 billion tonnes 32 % Animal feed Material use Energy use Notes: Shares of food an feed based on FAOSTAT; gap of animal feed demand from grazing not included (see Krausmann et al. 2008) Fig. 1: Worldwide allocation of harvested biomass by production target (main product) in 2008. Respective amounts include raw materials and their by-products, even if their uses fall into different categories. The new paper by nova-Institute, Germany, is a contribution to the recent controversial debate about whether food crops should be used for other applications than food and feed. It is based on scientific evidence and aims to provide a more realistic and appropriate view of the use of food-crops in biobased industries, including the production of biobased plastic materials, taking a step back from the often very emotional discussion. The authors, Michael Carus and Lara Dammer, take the position that 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. At the end of 2011, there were about 7 billion people on our planet. The global population is expected to reach more than 9 billion people by 2050. This alone will lead to a 30% increase in biomass demand. Increasing meat consumption and higher living standards will generate additional demand for biomass. According to EU Commission estimations, a 70% increase in food demand is expected, which includes a projected twofold increase in world meat consumption. Food and feed clearly are the supply priorities for biomass use, followed by bio-based products, biofuels and bioenergy. Fig. 1 shows the use of the 10 billion tonnes of biomass harvested worldwide in 2008. Animal feed predominates with a share of 60%, which will increase even further. 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 supply of food just as much or even more. Therefore, they suggest a differentiated approach to finding the most suitable biomass for industrial uses. In a first step, the issue has to be addressed of whether the use of biomass for purposes other than food can be justified at all. This means taking the availability of arable land into account. Several studies show that some areas will remain free even after worldwide food demand has been satisfied. These studies also show potential for further growth in yields and arable land areas worldwide – even in the EU, there are between 2.5 and 8 million hectares arable land that are not currently in use. Despite these potentials, arable land and biomass are limited resources and should be used efficiently and sustainably. As the numbers above show, the industrial material use of biomass makes up for only a very small share of biomass competition. Other factors have a much greater 42 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/13] Vol. 8

Opinion impact on food availability. Due to a growing demand from all sectors, the crucial question is how to increase the biomass production in a sustainable way. 1. Increasing yields: Tremendous potential in developing countries is hampered by a lack of investment in wellknown technologies and infrastructure, unfavourable agricultural policies such as no access to credits, insufficient transmission of price incentives, and poorly enforced land rights. 2. Expansion of arable land: Some 100 million hectares could be added to the current 1.4 billion hectares without touching rainforest or protected areas. Most estimates calculate up to 500 million hectares. These areas will require a lot of infrastructure investment before they can be utilized [1, 2]. Both aspects mean that political reforms and huge investment in agro-technologies and infrastructure are necessary. There is also huge potential for saving biomass and arable land: • Reduced meat consumption would free up a huge amount of arable land for other uses. Deriving protein from cattle requires 40 to 50 times the biomass input than protein directly obtained from wheat or soy; • Reducing food losses will also free up huge areas of arable land. Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year [3]; • Increasing the efficiency of biomass processing for all applications by the use of modern industrial biotechnology; • Using all agricultural by-products that are not inserted in any value chain today. Lignocellulosic residues in particular can be used in second generation biofuels and biochemicals; • Finally, the use of solar energy, which also takes up land, for fuelling electric cars is about 100 times more land-efficient than using the land for biofuels for conventional cars. In addition, solar energy can be produced on non-arable land, too. Increased use of this means of transportation would release huge areas of arable land that are currently used for biofuels [4] After the overall availability of land has been verified, the second step is to find out how best to use these areas. The use of the so-called first generation of biomass, such K as sugar, starch, plant oil and natural rubber, to obtain different chemicals and materials, is virtually as old as mankind (e.g. birch bark pitch use dates back to the late Paleolithic era). It has been conducted on an industrial scale for over 100 years. For example, starch is used on a large scale in the paper industry. Today, a wide range of chemicals, plastics, detergents, lubricants and fuels are produced from these resources. Because of their C M Y CM MY CY CMY potential direct competition with food and animal feed, the idea of using lignocellulosic feedstock as a raw material for fermentable sugars and also for gasification was introduced in the last ten years. Lignocellulose means wood, shortrotation coppice such as poplar, willow or Miscanthus, or else lignocellulosic agricultural by-products like straw. These are the so-called second-generation feedstocks. Very recently, more and more research is being carried out into using algae as a feedstock; this is known as a third-generation feedstock. Whether the use of second-generation feedstocks will have less impact on food security is questionable and is being discussed in detail in the complete paper. Several aspects give reasons to doubt this oftenpostulated axiom. Recent studies have shown that many food crops are more land-efficient than non-food crops. This means that less land is required for the production of a certain amount of fermentable sugar for example – which is especially crucial for biotechnology processes, such as the production of monomers or building blocks for bioplastics – than would be needed to produce the same amount of sugar with the supposedly “unproblematic”, second generation lignocellulosic non-food crops. magnetic_148, 175.00 lpi 15.00° 75.00° 0.00° 45.00° 14.03.2009 10:13:31 Prozess CyanProzess MagentaProzess GelbProzess Schwarz Magnetic for Plastics • International Trade in Raw Materials, Machinery & Products Free of Charge • Daily News from the Industrial Sector and the Plastics Markets • Current Market Prices for Plastics. • Buyer’s Guide for Plastics & Additives, Machinery & Equipment, Subcontractors and Services. • Job Market for Specialists and Executive Staff in the Plastics Industry Up-to-date • Fast • Professional bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/13] Vol. 8 43

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