At the Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020 on November 20, STRIVE researchers Jan Börner and Thomas Dietz together with Karla Rubio presented the main results of the Global Survey of Bioeconomy Experts in an online presentation.
Read the full report at: https://gbs2020.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/GBS-2020_Expert-Survey_web.pdf
The contributions to the interdisciplinary workshop „It’s the (bio)economy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy“, 7th – 8th October 2020 in Jena, were diverse, many sessions dealt with topics related to the German bioeconomy strategy and its conceptual orientation and criticism, at the same time there were some contributions that took an international perspective on the bioeconomy. In all lectures, the contradictions and dilemmas inherent in bioeconomy with regard to the (im)possibility of sustainable economic growth were discussed.
The workshop also offered the social science oriented junior research groups funded by the German Federal ministry of Education and Research the opportunity to network:
„We as the BioKum research group benefited from the workshop insofar as we came into contact with many other topics that are relevant to bioeconomic futures and transformation processes. The critical look at the imagination of the circular economy, as portrayed by Mario Giampietro, brings new perspectives to our work and will certainly be a matter of concern for us. From my personal point of view, the discourse during the workshop showed that the bioeconomy is not a panacea for current social and ecological crises and that its definition is far from fully discussed. Critical scientific support is necessary here in order to meet the challenges of our time, such as climate change, social injustice, etc. Especially the different disciplines that came together during the workshop promise a lot of new findings.“ (Jonathan Friedrich, BMBF junior research group „BioKum“)
With the exchange in the workshop, we received „interesting and constructive feedback on our own research project. Most of the discussions were about growth and positions of power. Various aspects were shown here, some of which were new to us. We were also interested in questions of transfer and social acceptance, such as how diffuse the understanding of bioeconomy in society is so far. The workshop helped us to gain new ideas and research approaches. We also benefit from networking – even though we participated online. We found the hybrid format very successful and will also take it with us as an idea in these times of the pandemic.“ (Madalena Meinecke, BMBF junior research group „Food for Justice: Power, Politics and Food Inequalities in a Bioeconomy“)
Two exciting contributions can now also be heard and seen online: more
The study “Spatially-explicit footprints of agricultural commodities: Mapping carbon emissions embodied in Brazil’s soy exports”, which was published in “Global Environmental Change”, highlights how demand for Brazilian soy by Europe and China is stoking deforestation, thereby increasing carbon emissions, especially in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna biome, followed by the Amazon rainforest.
In the blog of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the USA it is said that “our study puts all the pieces together for estimating impacts from trade in Brazilian soy from a global perspective”.
The prestigious magazine Mongabay reported: “Mongabay highlights how results from our recent study can help both nations and industries to reduce deforestation in Brazil and Greenhouse Gas emissions globally, while calling for action to protect Cerrado savanna”.
In January 2020, David Ayrapetyan conducted a field research at the Bazancourt-Pomacle biocluster near Reims, France. The field research consisted of a number of interviews with industry participants and extensive data collection.
The term bio-economy is mentioned more frequently in political strategy papers. For example, Germany has a national bio-economy strategy that has just been revised. However, many countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America also see the bio-economy as the one solution to a variety of problems caused by an economy that is growing at the expense of nature. Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, senior researcher at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, has interviewed 200 experts per online survey and evaluated specialist literature to investigate the extent to which the hope of the bio-economy as a “panacea” is justified. In addition, she researched what opportunities the concept of bio-economy offers as a development strategy in a global context and where the challenges lie.
But what is ‘bio-economy’ actually? There are different definitions circulating from international, national, academic, political governmental and non-governmental organizations. In short, bio-economy encompasses different sectors that rely on the use of biological organisms (animals and plants) and biological processes. These can be both the processing of biomass, e.g. for the production of bioenergy, and biological processes, e.g. in the case of bacteria that produce insulin or play a role in the production of bioplastics. Advocates of the development and patenting of such technologies and processes stress the opportunities for a sustainable economy. Politicians here as well as in the global South often hope that the bio-economy will provide the ‘holy grail’: economic development and increasing prosperity for all without negative effects on nature and the poorest people in the world.
What is the scientific perspective? Dr. Biber-Freudenberger emphasizes: “Not all bio-economies are the same. The opportunities and risks for sustainable development must always be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, our online survey of 200 experts and a comprehensive evaluation of scientific publications showed that expectations of bio-economic innovations are often – especially at the beginning – very high and have to be adjusted later on”. Dr. Biber-Freudenberger believes that this is mainly due to the fact that the majority of innovations and their effects are initially tested in laboratories and in controlled environments only. However, if these are then implemented under real conditions and disseminated more widely, this often leads to negative side effects that were previously difficult to foresee. “Our study has shown that we can expect negative side-effects especially in the area of social impacts, e.g. in the area of gender equality. These cannot be investigated in laboratories beforehand and therefore the overall picture of a bio-economic innovation is initially better,” explains Dr. Biber-Freudenberger.
This conclusion is also evident when looking at different bio-economic sectors: While the expectations for positive effects of bioenergy have decreased considerably over the last few years, biopharmaceuticals, for example, continue to be very popular. The study emphasizes that in the context of technology impact assessments, the opportunities and risks of bio-economic innovations for sustainable development must be critically analyzed. Interactions between supply and demand dynamics must be taken into account to ensure that bio-economic growth remains within ecological boundaries and aims at socially inclusive economic development. Only then can it be ensured that the bio-economy does not bring more harm than good.
Read the full article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sd.2072
The daily life practices of societies in Europe and North America have for centuries been based on long-distance extraction in other parts of the world. As China rises economically, Western lifestyles are adopted, adapted, and reproduced by hundreds of millions of people. More than a fifth of all Brazilian exports now go to the „Middle Country“. The analysis of the trade relations between Brazil and China shows how Western lifestyles and the corresponding modernization paradigm travel and affect the socio-ecological conditions of Brazil – and the globe.
Title: China is turning the economic engines back on – an ecological nightmare for Brazil; and the world?
Date: Thursday 30.04. – 20:30-21:30