By Rita Joshi
BERLIN (IDN) – Global environmental threats, the opportunities brought by new sciences, and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic call for the transition to the bioeconomy, says the communiqué emerging from the Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020 organised by the International Advisory Council on Global Bioeconomy (IACGB) composed of about forty high-level policy experts and drivers of the bioeconomy in all hemispheres. The transition is “more critical than ever before”. (P23) FRENCH | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF
The summit in Berlin from November 16-20 brought together key stakeholders from different sectors: governments, industry, academics among others. Its objective was to create an open dialogue on developing sustainable bioeconomy policies around the globe. It linked bioeconomy policy closely to global sustainable development and climate agendas.
The IACGB was initially formed to support the Global Bioeconomy Summit 2015 and has been maintained and extended since. It is composed of about forty high-level policy experts and drivers of the bioeconomy in all hemispheres. IACGB members act in their personal capacity as experts and do not represent an official government or organizational position.
The members combine a broad range of expertise and backgrounds and they are actively involved in different international bioeconomy-related policy and research fora. While currently being an informal mechanism, the IACGB has gained credibility and legitimacy as an expert think tank and are actively working to develop further in the coming years.
The communiqué underlines that the bioeconomy has emerged as a globally impactful transformative force in industries and manufacturing on the supply side, and as a transformative force for consumption change and waste reduction on the demand side. In fact, in recent years the strong adaptive capacities of the bioeconomy to national and local circumstances have been demonstrated.
The statement notes three overarching bioeconomy contributions to people and planet: bioeconomy for health and wellbeing as a key element in building back better during and after COVID-19; science and technology breakthroughs advancing the sustainable bioeconomy; and climate action, ecosystems and biodiversity protection with and for sustainable bioeconomy.
The communiqué is accompanied by a “vision for a global sustainable bioeconomy”. It stresses: Bioeconomy makes people and planet better off, by pursuing an economic system which is based on sustainable economic growth, while reducing resource consumption and by protecting and regenerating ecosystems. Using science to add value to biological resources and biological processes, the bioeconomy embraces principles of renewability, and circularity.
Furthermore, the bioeconomy aims at reconciling the needs of humans and nature. It purses an economic system that is far superior to today’s: one that strives for achieving the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and one which is based on sustainable economic growth, which focuses on improving human well-being and social equity, while reducing resource consumption and regenerating ecosystems.
The vision is convinced that bioeconomy activities enhance economic, social, and ecosystem resilience, allowing both urban and rural communities to thrive especially during economic crises. A global sustainable bioeconomy includes all levels of society and aims at improving the quality of life for all people, while respecting biophysical limits to economic growth.
The vision points out that nature serves as the greatest source of inspiration in the bioeconomy. Besides valuable, renewable material and energy resources, biology provides critical know-how on natural cycles, its system and processes. The life sciences explore such characteristics, abilities and functions of natural organisms in order to develop novel, high-value solutions and applications.
“At the moment, many bio-innovations are still in their infancy, but are already demonstrating promising solutions with clear social, health and ecological beneﬁts,” notes the vision.
Pioneering examples in the health care sector comprise biological therapeutics for example in immuno-oncology, bio-degradable implants and sensors as well as bio-printed organs.
In the textiles and fashion industry, bio-innovations contribute to sustainable materials and processes, for example, biotechnologically produced spider silk, biobased water repellents or biobased dyeing and washing processes.
In the IT sector, DNA has already been tested successfully for super-efﬁcient data storage and cells have been merged with chips to diagnose air pollution. Bio-innovators in the food and feed industry have developed pro-biotic health products, new vegan protein options, high-value products from food waste and side-streams, as well as microbiome solutions for agriculture, such as microbial-based fertilizers, and for combating obesity and non-communicable diseases for better animal feed and human health.
In industry, synthetic biology and applications of microbiome engineering not only result in advanced biomaterials, replacing plastics and steel but also inspire more sustainable manufacturing processes. Biotechnology and related converging technologies provide the remarkable potential to advance sustainable development and to accelerate job creation through innovative start-ups and global partnerships.
While German Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek opened the event, the German Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner emphasized the key role of agriculture and the food system in the sustainable bioeconomy.
The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Qu Dongyu stressed the need to combine technology, social impact and ethics and emphasized the benefits of the Global Bioeconomy Summit as a multi-stakeholder platform. More than 1,000 participants followed the Livestream at times.
The Summit hosted and supported by the German government has five official partners representing the regions and countries of (East) Africa, Thailand for ASEAN, EU Commission and Latin America/Caribbean and Japan. Their contribution to the Summit highlighted how globally anchored, but also how diverse the bioeconomy is.
“The bioeconomy is locally adapted and globally connected. It is impressive to see how people are adapting the bioeconomy to their needs and local conditions,” said Professor Joachim von Braun, co-chair of IACGB.
The diverse manifestations of the bioeconomy were made clear at a vibrant and supportive Bioeconomy Youth Champions workshop, serving as a starting point for lively discussions on how the young generation would shape regional bioeconomy concepts in their home countries and what prerequisites are needed for successful implementation.
“I was really struck by how deeply young participants understood that good policy is needed to shape a better future and that everyone brought their vision for how we get from where we are today to the future,” said Ronit Langer from the US. She is one of the eight Bioeconomy Youth Champions. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 November 2020]
Photo credit: Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020.
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