The global cropland footprint of the non-food bioeconomy

Martin Bruckner, Stefan Giljum, Günther Fischer, Sylvia Tramberend, Jan Börner

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWorking Paper/Preprint

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A rapidly growing share of global agricultural areas is devoted to the production of biomass
for non
food purposes. The derived products include, for example, biofuels, textiles,
detergents or c
osmetics. Given the far
reaching global implications of an expanding non
food bioeconomy, an assessment of the bioeconomy's resource use from a footprint
perspective is urgently needed. We determine the global cropland footprint of non
products with a
hybrid land flow accounting model combining data from the Food and
Agriculture Organization and the multi
regional input
output model EXIOBASE. The globally
interlinked model covers all cropland areas used for the production of crop
and animal
based non
food commodities for the years from 1995 to 2010. We analyse global patterns of
raw material producers, processers and consumers of bio-based non-food products, with a
particular focus on the European Union. Results illustrate that the EU is a major processer and the number one consumer region of non-food cropland, despite being only the fifth
largest producing region. Two thirds of the cropland required to satisfy EU non-food consumption are located in other world regions, giving rise to a significant depe
ndency on
imported products and to potential impacts on distant ecosystems. With almost 29% in
2010, oilseed production, used to produce, for example, biofuels, detergents and polymers,
represents the dominant share in the EU's non-food cropland footprint.
There is also a significant contribution of more traditional non-food biomass uses such as fibre crops (for textiles) and animal hides and skins (for leather products). Our study emphasises the
importance of comprehensively assessing the implications of the non-food bioeconomy
expansion as envisaged in various policy strategies, such as the Bioeconomy Strategy of the European Commission.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 107004 Human ecology
  • 201128 Sustainable building
  • 401905 Renewable resources
  • 405
  • 405004 Sustainable agriculture
  • 502042 Environmental economics
  • 502022 Sustainable economics
  • 105904 Environmental research

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