email from Richard Mawdsley - reproduced on warmwell with his permission
Growing non-food cropsAs usual Larry Whitty is a bit slow off the mark. (See below - DEFRA press release)
Growing non-food crops is marginally better than the ďgrow nothingĒ set-aside.
When the Agricultural industry suggested the growing of oil-seed crops for bio-diesel (instead of a barren set-aside) Government wasnít interested.
Now we have lagged behind in the technologyÖWhatís new?
Iíve got a few years worth of another non-food crop that is virtually unsaleable: wool.( The inevitable by-product of keeping sheep) Itís carpet wool. I canít afford to sell it. I bet you canít afford an all wool carpet. If itís of good quality (like Wilton) the odds are itís made in Belgium from New Zealand wool.
Yes. Political stupidity has decreed that we, as a nation, shall render ourselves incapable of ever feeding our people again.
Look at the memorials in any of our major sea-ports to those who gave their lives, lost at sea in war time, bringing in not munitions, but the food that our own government thought we didnít need to produce here. Full circle in 60 years! Thatís an improvement on the previous 20 year cycle. (We were nearly starved into submission 1914 Ė 18 too)
NON-FOOD CROPS CAN PROFIT SCIENCE, BUSINESS, ENVIRONMENT
Plans to exploit the commercial, scientific and environmental potential of crops grown for manufacturing were unveiled today 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.
Medicines, plastics, tyres, car parts, cosmetics and clothes can all be made from crops such as hemp, wheat and oilseed rape, which are also a source of cleaner energy and fuel and a range of renewable materials.
The joint Defra/DTI strategy, (see http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/acu/non-food/non-food.htm) 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.
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.
Aims of the strategy include:
- Tackling 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
- Funding more scientific research
- Increasing 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. We need to turn good ideas into real products that industry wants to make and people want to buy.
"Through our National Non-Food Crops Centre, which is a nucleus for the industry, we can turn our vision for the commercial exploitation of the science into a reality."
Trade and Industry Minister Nigel Griffiths said:
"A concerted approach is needed to build the necessary links between science, agriculture and industry to spread knowledge and galvanise action.
"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 http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2004/041015a.htm).
A new £3.5million UK-wide Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme also offers grants to help harvest, store, process and supply biomass for energy production.
Notes for editors
1. The Non-Food Crops Centre was set up in November 2003 (see www.nnfcc.co.uk ).
2. For more details about the Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme go to www.defra.gov.uk/farm/acu/energy/infrastructure.htm
3. For details about the Biomass Study Task Force, see www.defra.gov.uk/farm/acu/energy/biomass-taskforce/index.htm
4. Defra has paid farmers £1million since 2001 under the Energy Crops Scheme, which gives grants of up to £1,600 per hectare to support biomass crops production.
5. £100m available under the Bioenergy Capital Grants Scheme and the Energy Crops Scheme aims to stimulate planting of around 15,000 hectares of energy crops by the end of 2007.
6. The government supports biofuels through a 20p per litre reduction in duty for biodiesel which will be extended to bioethanol from 1 January 2005. UK sales of biodiesel are now around two million litres per month.