The global cropland footprint of the non-food bioeconomy

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

Publication: Working/Discussion Paper

Abstract

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
-
food
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 not use (legacy)
  • 405004 Sustainable agriculture
  • 502042 Environmental economics
  • 502022 Sustainable economics
  • 105904 Environmental research

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