How do we make sustainable bioeconomy work for everyone?

Last week the BioMonitor project explored the policies and strategies that govern the bioeconomy within Europe and beyond at the Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020

News Post - 27 Nov 2020

The Global Bioeconomy Summit (GBS) this year went virtual from the 16th to the 20th of November. The BioMonitor project established its presence in two workshops on 18 November. Colleagues from the Wageningen University and Research (WUR), and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (EU-JRC) took this opportunity to discuss with other stakeholders about the policy instruments and strategies that influence the bioeconomy in Europe and in other countries. Moreover, BioMonitor’s efforts were recognised as the European Bioeconomy Monitoring System was also presented during the conference.

BioMonitor project coordinator Justus Wesseler moderated a breakout session in a workshop in cooperation with the International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy (ICABR) on “How bioeconomy is transforming agriculture”. Also entitled as “How to implement bioeconomy strategies around the globe: Learning from success”, the parallel session looks at the different success stories from around the world on executing innovations related to agriculture and the bioeconomy. Invited speakers include Tévécia Ronzon (EU-JRC), Rafael Dulon (Hanf Farm Germany), Inge Broer (University of Rostock), and Mads Asprem (NewAfrica Impact Ltd).

Each speaker presented in five minutes their results and insights on the different bioeconomy strategies happening in the globe. Questions raised by the participants were also answered in the process. The key points of this workshop are the following:

  • It is not easy to assess the contribution of the private sector
  • The involvement of the private companies depend on policies and regulations
  • If the bio-based product is too costly, it can prevent investment
  • Scaling up is a problem as it is costly. It requires more financial support to make it happen.

Lobbying and regulation, as mentioned by Rafael Dulon and Inge Broer, are just some of the obstacles that hamper the development of the bioeconomy in Europe. Their respective communities – hemp and tobacco – receive insufficient support from the decision makers, as well as from the public. While the bioeconomy is often seen as the shining beacon of hope for many, lobby groups try to influence the debate. In Europe for example, the question has now extended to food versus (bio-) fuels versus bio-based materials debate says Tévécia Ronzon. Mads Asprem then recounted his experience on sustainable forestry in Africa in which he saw a lot of success on increasing biodiversity through landscape restoration. This was made feasible by working from the ground up starting with the local stakeholders.

To uphold sustainability in multiple bio-based sectors, things have to change. The input, and output coming from these value chains have to be measured and accounted for as well as their possible impacts. Justus Wesseler, in fact, stressed these actions again during the plenary session on “International policy instruments and governance of the bioeconomy and circular economy”.

“Models need to be transparent,” says Justus Wesseler, “These will assess the implications for policy makers. In order to do that, models would need to take opportunity costs into account based on data.” Indeed, the models rely heavily on the quality of the data. Their details are not necessarily available and so, help from the national statistics bureaus are being sought out by the BioMonitor project. Incorporating them altogether, BioMonitor will also be able to develop the different scenario models which look into the future with the bioeconomy.

Lastly, Elisabetta Balzi from the EU-JRC announced the launch of the European Bioeconomy Monitoring System during the plenary session on “Rebooting the economy – sustainability, growth, and climate action delivered by the bioeconomy”. The results were based on several Community of Practice workshops in which BioMonitor was involved in.

Using an evidence-based approach to measure and monitor the bioeconomy, we will be able to raise everyone’s awareness and acceptance of bio-based sectors. These will thus provide the bio-based community the support they need to meet the sustainability goals we have set for 2030.


Cover photo by Arijit manna on Unsplash