Natural rubber is an essential ingredient, which cannot be substituted by synthetics, for over 40,000 different applications in building industry, healthcare, transportation and defence.
The production of natural rubber is now coming from the latex of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), which is a monoculture grown in a limited geographic region in mainly Asia with all entailed risks. Worldwide natural rubber consumption is forecasted to increase significantly. At the moment the EU is completely dependent on imports of natural rubber. Security of feedstock supply makes the industry deeply concerned; risk of shortages and/or excessive price increases are faced due to growing demands in emerging economies like China and India. From an economic and strategic point of view, the development of European production of natural rubber is very important. Still large acreages of arable land is under-used and are not exploited at all in NW Europe. The development of an industrial crop producing high quality natural rubber that can grow in (NW) Europe is of great economic, social, political and environmental relevance.