A new publication by the Renewable Carbon Initiative challenges the commonly held belief that using food and feed crops for bio-based materials is detrimental to food security. Against the backdrop of a global hunger crisis, the paper argues that the biomass debate is flawed, subjective, and lacks sufficient evidence. It suggests that other factors such as climate change, conflict, wealth inequalities, overconsumption of meat, food import dependence, value chain losses, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are more significant causes of hunger.

The authors contend that using biomass for industrial applications can help replace fossil feedstocks and reduce carbon emissions, thus mitigating climate change. They argue that utilizing food and feed crops for chemicals and materials may not worsen food insecurity and can, in fact, have multiple benefits for local and global food security, climate change mitigation, and other factors. These potential benefits include:

  1. Climate change mitigation: Shifting away from fossil feedstocks towards bio-based materials contributes to mitigating the effects of climate change, a leading cause of hunger in the world.
  2. Land productivity: The competition between applications is not about the type of crop grown but about the land itself. Food and feed crops offer high yields and a variety of co-products, optimizing land use efficiency.
  3. Environmental impact: Improved agricultural practices that respect soil health and ecosystems, combined with increased resource efficiency and productivity, result in environmental gains.
  4. Economic security for farmers: Using food and feed crops for multiple markets (food, feed, biofuels, material industry) provides more options for farmers, increasing their economic stability, investments, and ultimately the availability of arable land.
  5. Market stability: The global availability of food and feed crops is enhanced, reducing the risk of shortages and speculation peaks. The impact of biofuels and bio-based materials on food prices is considered negligible.
  6. Feed security: Protein-rich co-products from food and feed crops can be used to supply protein for human nutrition, enhancing feed security.
  7. Food security: Increased availability of edible crops that can be stored and distributed during crises can help mitigate risks of supply-cycle triggered regional hunger events.

The authors emphasize that the focus should be on the integration of any feedstock for biomaterials production into the landscape, considering its social, environmental, and pricing effects. They argue against simplified claims and advocate for comprehensive discussions that balance the need for food security with the potential benefits of bio-based materials derived from food and feed crops.

In conclusion, the topic of using food and feed crops for bio-based materials is complex and requires detailed analysis. Oversimplified claims can detract from addressing the real causes of hunger while hindering the potential of an innovative industry to contribute