CHALLENGES AND RISKS OF A GROWING BIG ECONOMY

The concept of bio economy covers the agricultural industry and all manufacturing sectors and their respective service areas. Thus, it achieves a variety of industries such as agriculture, forestry, horticulture, fisheries and aquaculture, plant and animal breeding, food and beverage, wood, paper, leather, textile, chemical and pharmaceutical industries up to branches of energy industry. The biotechnology is going to transform many sectors of the economy within the next years, particular in the fields of medicine, health, agriculture and nutrition. Furthermore, the efficient coupling of biological and chemical synthesis processes will be of great importance for the production of energy and raw materials.

The  implementation of bio economy strategies in Europe and elsewhere provides many  opportunities. But it is also comes with challenges, trade offs and potential conflicts related to the sustainable production, processing and use of biomass and bio resources.

Bio economy transitions can  increase pressure on bio resources  and hence on further biomass production, on top of existing demands and expected additional requirements for carbon sequestration for climate protection.  The full implementation of the large number of new bio economy strategies is likely to cause additional demand and competition  which requires additional supply and demand side measures. Unless accompanied by such measures and technological and other innovations, bio economy transitions would increase the demand for land, water and other natural resources and with that the risk of resource degradation, other ecosystems and their biodiversity.

Mitigating these potential risks and  realising the above visions also depends on close coordination of the different national bio economies in order to best match bio resource production and  consumption patterns and achieve sustainable sourcing. Integrated  implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) calls for major innovations on the production, processing and consumption  side of bio resources as an important part of bio economy transition pathways. Science can help to  better understand the associated risks, mitigate trade offs and identify knowledge based sustainable bio economy pathways.  Studies have for example shown that a combination of sustainable biomass sourcing and sustainable agricultural intensification supported by coherent policies can increase the availability of bio resources and food security. While at the same time mitigating climate change and reducing pressures on biodiversity and other natural resources. Another risk associated with bio economy transitions is that industrialised countries such as  those in Europe continue their resource intensive consumption patterns based on increasing net imports of raw bio resources. At the same time some countries of the global south stay or become providers of these bio resources without also advancing towards modern (bio)economies that include adding value to biomass upstream in the supply chains. Improved international cooperation and a fair allocation of the benefits of a global  bio economy transition along the full supply chain is important to mitigate these risks. However, robust tools for measuring the distribution of costs and benefits are still largely missing.

Realising bio economy opportunities  whilst addressing the associated  challenges and minimising risks implies:1. Learning from the past  by  evaluating  observed effects of bio economy policies, innovations and pathways, in order to  develop context and scale specific,  environmental and socio-economic sustainability criteria 2. Taking stock of the current patterns of biomass and bio resources supply and demand to assess geographically explicit potentials and limitations of the bio economy 3. Developing a set of integrated future bio economy scenarios which account for  innovations and other trends and which explore potentials and limitations of biomass and bio resources in the EU and globally. This presents some initial scientific evidence identifying synergies and trade offs across different sectors, regions and policy areas and it provides some guiding principles for the implementation of bio economy strategies at EU and Member State level and solutions in a global development context, inviting further dialogue between science and policy making.

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