|Castillo: "The diversity of Brazilian products shows that the
industry is not just for ethanol and sugar (Photo: Amyris)
The increasing number and variety of new products that utilize sugarcane as a raw material, moving well beyond traditional products like ethanol and sugar, has grabbed the attention of Pilar Del Castillo, a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). She expressed her admiration on April 4th while visiting the Brazilian headquarters of U.S. biotechnology company Amyris, as part of a delegation of European Parliament members.
“It is interesting to see the expanding array of products derived from sugarcane. This diversity proves that the Brazilian production chain is not exclusively dedicated to ethanol and sugar,” said Castillo, a former Minister of Education, Culture and Sport in Spain from 2000 to 2004.
The visit, organized by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) in partnership with Apex-Brasil, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, presented a number of technology initiatives involving the sugarcane industry, including the production of so-called green plastics and other sugarcane by-products. The nineteen-member delegation was welcomed at the Amyris unit in the city of Campinas, in São Paulo State, by its General Manager Roel Collier and UNICA Sustainability Manager, Luiz Fernando Amaral.
In his presentation, Amaral demonstrated how technological advancements have transformed sugarcane production and its related products within a far more sustainable process. Among other examples, he mentioned the rapid advance of mechanized harvesting and planting of sugarcane.
“Brazilian agriculture as a whole has become increasingly significant on a global level, and with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) scheduled for Rio de Janeiro next June, it is natural that more delegations want to learn about the potential of cane-based products, particularly ethanol and the growing array of technologies that use sugarcane as a raw material,” explained Amaral.
Expanding sugarcane production was a frequent topic among the Europeans. Amaral explained that sugarcane fields in Brazil occupy only 2.8% of the country’s arable lands, or about 9.5 million hectares. “Future expansion will take place mainly in degraded pastures, without deforestation or damage to native vegetation,” he added.
The Agroecological Zoning programme, introduced in 2009 by the federal government, restricts the expansion of sugarcane to areas where there will be no impact to biodiversity and forbids sugarcane expansion on any type of native vegetation and in areas rich in biodiversity, including the Amazon, the Central Wetlands (Pantanal Region) and the Upper Paraguay River Basin, concluded Amaral.