Medicines, plastics, tyres, car parts, cosmetics and clothes can all be made from hemp, wheat and oilseed rape crops which are also a source of cleaner energy and fuel and a range of renewable materials.
Willow coppice for example – which is already used for energy generation – can provide enough power for a combined heat and power plant which supplies energy to a local business and a local school.
Using non-food crops has widespread potential benefits: for the environment by cutting greenhouse gases, pollution and waste; for business by providing new products and markets; and for farmers and rural communities by creating new industries and opportunities.
Plans to exploit the commercial, scientific and environmental potential of crops grown for manufacturing were unveiled today (Friday November 5) by the Government.
Food and Farming Minister Larry Whitty launched a long-term strategy to create more demand for and use of renewable raw materials made from non-food crops.
The joint Defra/DTI strategy is aimed at increasing commercial opportunities, stimulating innovation, cutting waste and environmental damage, and protecting precious natural resources.
Defra has doubled its funding for non-food crops research to £2million a year, with an extra £1.3million to promote innovation.
In the process it aims to tackle climate change – for example, substituting five per cent of fossil fuels with biofuels could lead to around one million tonnes of carbon saving by 2010 and increase the use of sustainable products.
Larry Whitty said: “This is an important sector with huge potential. The UK’s world-class bioscience know-how puts us in a strong position to seize the exciting opportunities non-food crops present.”
Trade and Industry Minister Nigel Griffiths said Government will work with industry, academics, scientists, farmers and consumers to promote awareness of products derived from crops, to identify new commercial opportunities, and to help develop a supply chain that meets the needs of the market.
Defra has also launched a drive to boost production of biomass – trees and plants used as environment-friendly energy sources. Former farmers’ leader Sir Ben Gill will head a new biomass task force (see News release 401/04).
Source: defra News Nov. 05, 2004.