Government shows a growing appetite for non-food crops
By Tom Allen-Stevens
SCIENTISTS investigating non-food crops have been encouraged by renewed government interest in their potential.
DEFRA minister, Margaret Beckett, spent longer than expected viewing the new non-food crops area at the Royal Show.
Researchers are now hoping that DEFRA will help with both cash and moral support in finding millions of £s for further research.
"All of these companies have really good ideas, and all have our interest and support," said Mrs Beckett after completing her tour.
She said she would continue to press the Treasury for a further 15p/litre tax cut on biodiesel, which, say advocates, would make the fuel economically viable. "The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already taken some steps, but we should look again at all the economic issues involved."
She was particularly interested in projects that held potential solutions for more than one of the disciplines of her extended department. One example is some research undertaken by the University of Warwick looking at replacing fossil fuels used to make polymers and plastics with rapeseed oil.
Researchers told the minister that the project not only opens to farmers a multi-billion £ market use for a widely-grown crop, but will make industrial and household goods that can be composted, reducing pressure on landfill sites.
"The number of different materials you can make is phenomenal," said DEFRAs chief scientific adviser Howard Dalton. "Using carbon dioxide and light, this technology could deliver what the oil industry has produced for years using depleting fossil fuel resources."
Farmers could receive £10-25/t of carbon sequestered for growing such crops. *
Non-food for thought… Margaret Beckett listens to a non-food crop researcher.