Plastic bags made from corn, rawlplugs from castor oil plants, tyres from dandelion: more and more products are being made from renewable rather than fossil-based raw materials. This is known as bio-economy. This directional shift offers many opportunities for environmental protection, for sustainable economic activity, for poverty reduction and for more generational equality. But we have to take the right steps!
Developed countries must act responsibly
Even today, every ninth person suffers from hunger – that’s 795 million people worldwide. At least 70 per cent of them live in the rural regions of developing countries and live from agriculture. In the course of a shift from an oil-based economy to bio-economy, their home regions, in which hunger and poverty dominate, hold immense significance. More than 400 million poor farming operations worldwide could be introduced to biomass production. We must not, however, make the same mistakes as with the deployment of biofuels, which led to serious negative social developments.
A cautious policy that promotes a gently rising demand for biomass is therefore required. Small farmers need time and advice in order to reorganise themselves, for example, into producer groups and cooperatives. They need to improve their cultivation methods and have direct access to markets. The path to an economically self-supporting and socially and ecologically-sustainable productive rural agriculture cannot be rushed. The United Nations is currently advising political safeguards. The bio-economy strategies of the developed countries can and must link in and make a significant contribution to the future global sustainability goals (Sustainable Development Goals).
Vital: Standards for the right to food
The EU and the German Bundesregierung assert that food security has precedence over all other interests in the use of biomass. However, there are still no standards set for it. Furthermore, absurdly, the use of accredited biomass is currently only prescribed for fuel production. What this actually means is that we fill up our cars with accredited palm oil, but palm oil in margarine or cosmetics is not accredited!
Therefore, we need a global biomass standard that regulates the production of all biomass types for various uses, both internationally and cross-sector. Here, not only ecological criteria for the definition of sustainability must be incorporated, but also economic and especially social criteria. Only then can it be ensured that non-food biomass use does not also endanger the human right to food.
The Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn and Welthungerhilfe are developing reliable criteria for nutritional security in the bio-economy.
The growing demand for food, raw materials and energy: opportunities for agriculture, challenges for food security? (01/16/2015)
In Brief No. 34