The Global Cropland Footprint of the Non-Food Bioeconomy
ZEF-Discussion Papers on Development Policy No. 253
30 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 2018
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.
Keywords: Bioeconomy, land footprint, non-food products, multi-regional input-output analysis, hybrid land flow accounting
JEL Classification: Q56, Q57
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation