Bioeconomy: can inclusion, innovation, and sustainability align?
While there is no unique definition of bioeconomy, the concept has gained increasing attention during the last few years. Often associated with circular, green, and blue economies, the bioeconomy is generally seen as a shift in the economic paradigm towards an economy that is based on renewable resources and capable of achieving sustainability goals. Bioeconomy models consider biotechnology as a central contributor to primary production and industry. Nevertheless, there are some concerns if the bioeconomy is truly sustainable, particularly when it comes to the possible trade-off in the agricultural sector and possible biodiversity loss related to the overuse of biomasses.
The European Union issued its first bioeconomy strategy in 2012, updated in 2018. According to the EU definition, the bioeconomy covers “all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources (animals, plants, microorganisms, and derived biomass, including organic waste), their functions and principles. It includes and interlinks land and marine ecosystems and the services they provide; all primary production sectors that use and produce biological resources (e.g. agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture); and all economic and industrial sectors that use biological resources and processes to produce food, feed, bio-based products, energy, and services (e.g. restoration, waste treatment, food retail trade, and research into and repair of bio-based products)”. While at the European Union, there is an effort to harmonize the bioeconomy understanding in the region, Spain, Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Norway have already developed their own national strategy on bioeconomy. A specific bioeconomy strategy has also been developed in a few countries outside Europe, like Costa Rica, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom, United States, and at the regional level in East Africa and Nordic Countries (Global Bioeconomy Report 2020). Different bioeconomy strategies include different sectors, for example, some include health and others do not. They also do not coincide on what standards should be set to ensure sustainability and alignment with Sustainable Development Goals.
There is a need for a better understanding of the different definitions of the bioeconomy and governance frameworks. These could pave the way to more and better regulations, ensure alignment with climate targets, and increase financing of new technologies while preserving communities from risks of resource overexploitation.
Rym Ayadi / Founder and President of the Euro – Mediterranean Economists Association
- Elena Pita / Director at Biodiversity Foundation, Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge.
- José Pugas / Partner and Head of Responsible Investments and Engagement, JGP Asset Management
- Julia Wolf / Natural Resources Officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- Gonzalo Muñoz / UN High-level Climate Champion COP25, and Chair of Non-State Actors Pillar of the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda
- Fernanda Facchini / Head of climate change and Circularity, Natura & Co