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Leaders Debate Land Use for Food or Fuel

16 March 2012
NNFCC

UK - Experts from agriculture and the biofuels industry came together at the BP Biofuels Sustainable Resilience Series in London to discuss the future of UK wheat and how it can be a sustainable source of both food and fuel.

In only a few months time the UK's biggest biofuels facility, Vivergo Fuels near Hull, will open for business and every year will turn more than a million tonnes of locally grown feed wheat into 420 million litres of bioethanol and 500,000 tonnes of animal feed.

But questions still persist over whether we can balance the needs for food and fuel using crops like wheat.

The debate was chaired by television presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, who said: "The fascinating thing which this debate is focussing on is whether you can both produce off the same land and the same crop both food and biofuels, if you can then that's a very exciting prospect. Whether you can is the very great question which is going to be debated."

The debate discussed just how we will make the transition to an integrated bioeconomy, where food and fuel can be made together, and featured experts from the industry including Chief Executive of NNFCC Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, Chief Executive of BP Biofuels Phil New, Director of Forum for the Future Jonathon Porritt, Managing Director of Vivergo Fuels David Richards and President of the National Farmers Union Peter Kendall.

Dr Jeremy Tomkinson said: "There is growing continuum towards not just more sustainable biofuels but economically integrated processes where we can derive food, energy, materials and chemicals from the same area of land and it will be done but we are just at the start."

"This is a new world, new technology, new ideas - without the investment community putting money into these plants we won't get them at all."

The potential for integrated biorefineries like the Vivergo Fuels facility is clear; by producing food and fuel from locally grown wheat we can reduce our fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions while supporting the UK farming industry.

Commenting at the event, biofuels advisor for the National Farmers Union Ruth Digby, said: "Domestically produced protein source from domestically produced crops is a really good way of balancing the needs of the food and fuels markets."

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