The global cropland footprint of the non-food bioeconomy

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 cosmetics. 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 dependency 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.


Issue Date:
Apr 10 2018
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
Record Identifier:
http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/271062
Language:
English
Total Pages:
25
JEL Codes:
Q56, Q57
Series Statement:
ZEF – Discussion Papers on Development Policy No. 253




 Record created 2018-04-10, last modified 2018-04-10

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