The global cropland footprint of the non-food bioeconomy

First assessment of EU’s global cropland footprint of non-food biomass products

A new publication by members of the FINEPRINT team working on global footprinting and colleagues from partner institutions presents the first assessment of the global cropland footprint related to EU’s consumption of non-food biomass products.

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.

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.

High European dependency on imports of non-food products

Results from this new study 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.

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.

Full reproducibility of results using the FINEPRINT GitHub portal

FINEPRINT’s research is committed to open science. On our GitHub repository we make available all codes and underlying data required to allow a full reproduction of results as well as further developments of the models.

Full documentation of the codes and data applied for the calculation of the cropland footprints for non-food products can be found at

A working paper version published by the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn, Germany, can be downloaded here.