Bioeconomy encompasses the sustainable production of renewable resources from land, fisheries and aquaculture environments and their conversion into food, feed, fibre bio-based products and bio-energy as well as the related public goods. The aim is to do this through innovative and efficient technologies.
The European bioeconomy is already worth more than €2 trillion annually, employing more than 22 million people and approximately 9% of the total EU workforce. Every euro invested in bioeconomy research and innovation under Horizon 2020 will generate about €10 in value added, estimates the European Commission. It will also contribute to the Commission’s Europe 2020 goal on moving to a low-carbon economy by 2050 and to the flagship initiatives “Innovation Union” and “A Resource Efficient Europe”.
The ultimate aim of the bioeconomy is to help keep Europe competitive, innovative and prosperous by providing sustainable, smart and inclusive economic growth and jobs, and by meeting the needs of a growing population whilst protecting our environment and resources.
However, in the midst of this opportunity, the bioeconomy faces quantitative challenges including food security and qualitative challenges including food integrity.
The need to seek food security outside conventional sources has led to innovative research in fields such as algae technology, a form of biotechnology significant in many states for example Australia, Israel and the US. The promotion of the importance bioeconomy and sustainability is a worldwide issue. The US conducts a food security programme called ‘Feed the Future’ which aims to eradicate hunger in third world countries in the future. It does this by fostering a policy of sustainability when it comes to food and food sources.
Meanwhile, the integrity of European foods is also under constant threat from fraudulently labelled imitations that try to exploit that added value. Due to the food being created in new ways in the bioeconomy this is a great issue today. To address these concerns, the EU strategy “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe” outlines the importance and significance of bioeconomy within the Europe 2020 Strategy.
The EU is also trying to establish a safe and sustainable way of ensuring that products of the bioeconomy are of the same standard if not better than the natural form. The example of food integrity can be seen as a world-wide concern that must be dealt with. The social and economic benefits of the bioeconomy will depend on good policy decisions. Without good policy decisions the future of a sustainable economy will be grim.
ISC organised a meeting at the European Parliament on 21 January titled: "EU Development Aid: Experiences and Recommendations from Stakeholders Driving Science and Innovation", hosted by MEP Catherine Bearder.