RCI’s scientific background report: “The use of food and feed crops for bio-based materials and the related effects on food security – Promoting evidence-based debates and recognising potential benefits” (June 2023) Long Version



Promoting Evidence-based Debates and Recognising Potential Benefits

This scientific paper highlights new insights into a hotly debated topic and urges for careful and evidence-based debates.

The paper aims to show that the well-known biomass debate is flawed, subjective and not fully based on evidence. What is detrimental to food security are, according to the World Food Programme in 2023, climate change, conflict, extreme inequalities in wealth distribution, heavy dependence on food imports from industrial countries, overconsumption of meat, losses along the value chain and the impact of the COVID pandemic. Competition between biomass uses is not mentioned among the relevant causes.

The use of biomass for industrial applications, does have the potential to replace fossil feedstocks and thus contribute to the urgently needed reduction of fossil carbon emissions into our atmosphere to mitigate climate change.

While not denying the dire need to combat world hunger, the authors of the paper argue that using food and feed crops for chemicals and materials will not necessarily exacerbate food insecurity, and in fact has the potential to cause multiple benefits for local and global food security, climate mitigation and other factors:

  1.  The climate wins – Bio-based materials are part of the solution to achieve climate change mitigation.
  2. Land productivity wins – The competition between applications is not for the type of crop grown, but for the land.
  3. The environment wins – due to increased resource efficiency and productivity of food and feed crops.
  4. Farmers win – because they have more options for selling stock to different markets.
  5. Market stability wins – due to increased global availability of food and feed crops.
  6. Feed security wins – due to the high value of the protein-rich co-products of food and feed crops.
  7. Food security wins – due to the increased overall availability of edible crops that can be stored and flexibly distributed.


DOI No.: https://doi.org/10.52548/WQXU7327

Renewable Carbon Initiative: Lara Dammer (nova-Institute, Head of Department Economy & Policy) Michael Carus (Executive Manager of RCI and CEO of nova-Institute) Olaf Porc (nova-Institute, Department Economy & Policy)
Date of publication
Jun 2023
File type