October 30, 2018
In this article I want to take a really broad look at how continuous innovation in the starch industry is contributing significantly to tackling some of the biggest challenges in sustainable agriculture and bioeconomy in Europe.
Guest blog post by Jamie Fortescue, Managing Director at Starch Europe.
The planet faces more and more environmental pressure. Demands on farming and energy resources are getting heavier. We’re looking for food security, greater accountability and responsibility from our food producers. In essence, we want a more sustainable food system.
The EU has launched a number of initiatives in this area, such as updated Bioeconomy Strategy, Food 2030 and the upcoming EU Protein Plan. And let’s not forget the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. All of this is designed to encourage a boost to a low-carbon sustainable economy.
Starch perfectly fits into that strategy, which is something starch producers began to realise years ago. They invested and continue to invest in R&D of new products and production methods to support the rapidly-evolving needs in Europe.
But how exactly is starch fostering bioeconomy and sustainable food production in Europe, you ask?
The business of extracting starch from maize, wheat, potatoes, peas, rice and barley to create thickeners, sweeteners and other functional ingredients used in food, delivers other products, namely proteins and fibres. Instead of being discarded, these proteins and fibres are transformed for use in food and feed. Starch is a zero-waste industry. Approximately 5 million tonnes of proteins and fibres are produced from the starch industry annually. Consumer demand for plant-based proteins, with their lower environmental impact compared to animal proteins, is expected to continue its rapid climb. And currently, there are not enough protein crops in Europe to cover demand. Furthermore, soy, while an excellent protein crop, has climate challenges in many parts of the EU, which means Europe needs to import much of its soy from other parts of the world. The starch producers are actively looking at options to increase protein production capacity and improve its quality so that a higher percentage can be used in food. We’re hoping to progressively fill that gap.
Starch is also one of the major renewable alternatives to fossil fuels in all sorts of applications, such as paper, detergents, bioplastics and paints.
Another important element of the sustainable story is that of rural job creation since starch is produced mostly in rural areas, close to the fields where the produce is grown. This guarantees sustainable employment to European farmers and fosters rural development, since the starch industry is not dependent on any one final product or outlet for its products. About 100,000 farmers directly depend on starch production in Europe.
We’re proud of the contribution that our industry is making to address some of the major challenges facing our society, by reducing the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels in chemical and industrial applications, by promoting bio-based alternatives; by providing a sustainable and reliable outlet for EU farms and reducing the EU’s protein deficit.
We want to encourage others to join this common effort towards a more sustainable agricultural and food system in the EU. So we’re calling on the European Union to follow through on its recent initiatives with concrete actions. We’re very supportive of bringing the right policies to the table and will take a first helpful step by facilitating a multi-stakeholder dialogue on these topics at our annual conference on 6 November in Brussels.
More information on our annual conference: https://www.starch.eu/starch-