Bioeconomy in Action
‚Äď Boosting bioeconomical growth in Europe in a smart and sustainable way.
Address by Mairead McGuinness MEP
March 26, 2012
I rather like the definition used in the report on the Knowledge Based Bio- economy in Europe – Achievements and Challenges -
‚Äúthe sustainable production and conversion of biomass, for a range of food, health, fibre and industrial products and energy, where renewable biomass encompasses any biological material to be used as raw material.‚ÄĚ
That there is a need to achieve a low carbon economy no longer based on fossil fuels is well understood.
However, divining the pathway to that goal will require a revolution in our ways of thinking and doing.
That revolution requires us to bring people with us on the path and to provide the knowledge and information to empower them so that they want to be a part of the revolution ‚Äď a revolution that can only yield positive results.
In a way the bio-economy is not a recent discovery. It has provided us with food, fuel and fibre over the centuries. In many ways we took it for granted.
Today as we face into a future where the supply of fossil fuel – the driver of all economies – is finite and where the consequences of our reliance on such fuels have given rise to serious environmental problems, we are looking again to the natural world to answer our many demands – for food, fuel, fibre, new products and chemicals.
Today we are more acutely aware than ever before about the need for sustainable production systems; about the importance of producing more, using less resources and polluting less. In that context we know that waste is no longer acceptable; that many by-products can also become products with a real value.
There are many layers to the task ahead.
Some EU member states have already made great strides in advancing the bio-economy agenda. Others have a lot of catching up to do, but can learn from those who are leading the field.
Of course, allied to this back to nature approach we also need to harness the innovative minds of our scientists, researchers, farmers, food processors, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and many others – so that we can deliver the diverse range of goods the bio-economy has to offer and the many innovations we have not yet thought of.
Today I have been asked to discuss opportunities for rural areas and regions arising from the bio-economy.
It should go without saying that rural areas and our regions will gain from the development of the bio-economy.
After all, it is in rural areas that we find the land on which to grow the bio-economy.
Bio-economy in action:- Dutch/ Flemish example
The European Bio Based Super Cluster in Euro Delta – a co-operation between Flanders and the Netherlands ‚Äď is an excellent example of just what the future holds
The Belgian provinces of East-Flanders and West-Flanders, and the Dutch provinces of Zeeland and North-Brabant are working to develop the European Bio-based Economy into one of the most competitive, sustainable, inclusive clusters in the world.
There is a shared enthusiasm among all stakeholders, backed by political and financial commitments from governments.
This regional bio-based economy will stimulate green growth, helping to maintain and create green jobs.
The cluster spans from Western Flanders to South Holland. The Green Delta is a collaborative effort of the EU – two member states and 5 regional governments; East and West Flanders, Zeeland, North-Brabant and the Province of South Holland.
It‚Äôs unique because it connects ports like Rotterdam, Ghent, Flushing and Zeebrugge with the chemical and processing industry and the agriculture industry.
Smart links are being made, paving the way for new forms of income for farmers and fishers.
The area‚Äôs pool of knowledge, resources and infrastructure encompass world class multinationals, SMEs and knowledge institutes backed by local, regional and national governments.
All of the requirements needed to run a leading bio based economy are present: heavy-duty industry, robust agri- and horticulture sector, practice and know how in food production & processing, energy production, plastics processing, textile production and aquaculture expertise – which makes this also an outstanding region in terms of marine/ blue bio technology.
Funding -¬†¬†Finances are matched by EU, national and regional funds, as well as financial business support:
- BE-Basic founded in 2010 (Bio-based Ecologically Balanced Sustainable Industrial Chemistry) is a public-private partnership that develops industrial bio-based solutions for a sustainable society. The aim is to expand worldwide in terms of consortium partners and research collaborations.
Worldwide BE-Basic has strategic partnerships with institutions in Brazil, Malaysia, U.S.A. and Vietnam. There is an R&D budget of more than 120 million euros, half of this funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.
- Bio Base Europe, a whopping 22 million euro investment is one of the biggest Interreg projects in Europe supporting the cluster.
In 2009 it won the prestigious Sail of Papenburg AEBR-award as the best cross-border project in Europe.
In these projects more than 60 companies and institutes work together to develop bio based materials, processes and products.
Another example of a bi-based industry is that of Novamont ‚Äď an Italian company employing 173 people, 30pc of them in R&D and with a wide range of patents in the bio-economy area.
Its product range includes a material to replace plastic made from traditional fossil fuels. The product is biodegradable, naturally compostable and does the same job as traditional plastics but answers the problems of traditional plastics by being derived from agriculture, giving rise to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and reducing energy comsumption and the consumption of non-renewable resources.
The magic raw material is maize. The plastic type material produced from the maize molecules is used in agriculture, in nursery pots, mulch film and ties among other things.
In the retail sector the produce is used for carrier bags, netting and also disposable cutlery, nappies, cotton buds and more.
It also has uses in the catering sector, in waste management and in industry.
This company has set itself the challenge of being a catalyst for the country‚Äôs development in the sector by completing the ‚ÄúBiorefinary integrated into the local area‚ÄĚ model in partnership with the agriculture, industrial, institutional and academic world.
So there are concrete examples of the bioeconomy in action in many member states.
EU Horizon 2020
The EU is also acutely aware of the importance of the bio-economy.
The Horizon 2020 programme and the future regional policy will be vital to achieving our targets for the bio-economy. Some ‚ā¨4.7 billion has been proposed for the Challenge “Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bio-economy”, with complementary funding in other areas of the programme.
In regional policy, the approach of ‚Äėsmart specialisation‚Äô is introduced.
For 2014-2020 every region has to bring forward tailor-made choices as a basis for funding from the regional funds.
There is room for more synergy between the research projects and the innovations to be created by entrepreneurs all over Europe. Crossovers between the chemical sector, agriculture and consumer products are coming.
7th Framework Programme
The EU’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7 already supports research across a wide range of bio-economy areas and sectors-
Some project examples are:
- Aquamax- which aims to create a vegetarian diet for fish and has an EU Contribution of ‚ā¨10.5 million.
- A project aimed at paving the way to greener products and services ‚Äď that address several challenges, in particular, climate change and the depletion of natural resources and
_ A recent European collaborative project with researchers at the National University of Ireland, Galway that aims to investigate the potential of algae as a sustainable energy. This four year, ‚ā¨1.2 million initiative is aimed at developing the commercial viability of seaweed in Europe.
We know that seaweed is big business in the Asian food and pharma sectors.
In Ireland researchers are trying to unlock the potential of this coastal resource, which surrounds us as an island nation.
More than 500 varieties of seaweed can be found off the Irish coast. Yet it remains a relatively undervalued resource.
Due to its high nutritional content, seaweed was an important food source for coastal communities but its association with our terrible famine in the 1840′s as a food of last resort resulted in it going out of fashion for some time. However, that negative image appears to be changing.
Seaweed has been known to have therapeutic powers for the treatments of tuberculosis, arthritis, colds, flu and more. In addition, it has become a key food additive, it can be used in food dyes and has antioxidant properties. Polysaccharides ‚Äď long-chain molecules extracted from brown and red algae ‚Äď are very useful as emulsifiers, stabilisers and thickeners.
In Asia, where it is cultivated and used in a variety of food and beauty products, nine-tenths of the world‚Äôs production for commercial use takes place in China, Japan and Korea. It is also commonly used as a sugar-rich animal feedstock in the US.
Of the 500 species that are found here only a small number are harvested.
Researchers at NUI Galway‚Äôs Ryan Institute are taking part in a European collaborative project to investigate the potential of algae as a source of sustainable energy.
Algal bio-energy development is still in its infancy.
NUI Galway is participating in the Energetic Algae project (EnAlgae), a four-year, ‚ā¨1.2-million initiative that hopes to shed more light on this undervalued resource.
EnAlgae involves eight European states: France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
It is just one of several integrative biofuel projects the EU hopes to fund in the future.
The objective is to develop knowledge shared between lots of different countries and work together to push this forward as quickly as possible, so that we can reduce CO2 emissions in northwest Europe.
Each country is involved in different aspects of investigation. Some are looking at how to improve efficiencies, looking at policy landscapes, trying to work out if seaweed biomass can be produced effectively and efficiently.
Researchers are also attempting to produce fuel from the biomass.
They are also gathering much needed information of seeweed production, to aid those looking to this resource as a basis for product development.
The Irish research team will be involved specifically in the development of the seaweed.
Macroalgae biomass will be cultivated at sea off the southwest coast on a one-hectare facility.
The seaweed can be farmed on land or out in the sea.
Farming it on land is more expensive but more predictable and you get a guaranteed high-value product.
Alternatively, it can be done on seeded ropes that are directed out into the sea from land. Open-sea cultivation is very unpredictable due to the impact of storms.
Despite the abundance of seaweed off the Irish coast, conditions for cultivating seaweed biomass are not ideal.
Hotter climates and more space are needed – as in Australia, the US and Israel.
Many biofuel projects are failing because the amount of energy input required far outweighs the output.
The collaborative nature of EnAlgae means well-needed statistics can be brought together on overall seaweed varieties and amounts all around northwest Europe.
The marine environment needs to be explored for its potential for bioactive compounds.
The potential for medicinal products from marine plants and algae, while unknown at this point, is thought likely to be significant.
In our urban areas and in our motorways we have removed large swathes of productive land ‚Äď and removed it permanently. When we cap land with concrete it is no longer usable.
Land is a very finite resource and it is a resource under pressure.
The extent of the erosion across Europe has recently been charted in a scientific study that should inform our future policy considerations.
We‚Äôre relying on our soils to provide us with our food, fuel and fibres needs. Our soils are the bedrock of our bio-economy.
The report, ‚ÄėThe State of Soil in Europe‚Äô, a contribution to the European Environmental Agency Environment State and Outlook Report, shows that soil resources are being very seriously exploited, degraded and irreversibly lost.
Among the causes of soil degradation are poor land management practices, industrial activities and land use changes that lead to soil sealing, contamination, erosion and loss of organic carbon.
The study illustrates the lack of awareness and knowledge about the functions and importance of soil to our wellbeing and that of future generations.
Soil is a habitat and gene pool serving as a platform for human activities, landscape and heritage and it is also a provider of raw materials.
Soil erosion by water is one of the most widespread forms of soil degradation in Europe, affecting over 100 million ha, or 16% of Europe‚Äôs total land area.
The report also pointed to a loss of close to one million ha of agricultural land due to urbanisation over a 10-year period from 1990 to 2000. The annual impact of soil losses due to urbanisation, on the production capability of agriculture in the EU-25, is equivalent to the loss of more than 6 million tonnes of wheat.
What is most alarming is that soil degradation processes are accelerating in many parts of Europe and it has reached a state of irreversibility in some parts of the Mediterranean region.
Our soil is also important when it comes to climate change, being second only to the oceans as a global carbon sink.
We need to better appreciate the economic, social and the environmental value of soil. And we need to nurture and better care for our soils, so that they can go on giving.
We need to address the soils challenge in the European Union and globally if we are to deliver on the promises of the bio-economy.
As Environment commissioner Janez Potocnik has said the soils report highlights the importance of preserving European soils if we are to safeguard supplies of quality food and clean groundwater, healthy recreational spaces, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Perhaps the issue of soils could be addressed through the innovation partnerships idea proposed by the Commission under CAP reform, rather than through a Soils Directive which the Parliament has thus far rejected.
The first challenge to our plans for the bio-economy is to mind our soils!
We see very clearly the famine for land by the activity of land grabbing on a global scale, as more and more economies appreciate the importance of access to land.
China has acquired land in Africa to secure its food base.
The EU does its own share of land grabbing, using a land bank equivalent to the size of Germany to produce part of our food needs in the EU.
Professor Harald Von Witzke of Humboldt has calculated that we use a land bank the equivalent to over 30 million hectares for our food needs. Mostly this land is needed to produce our soya and oilseeds needs for animal feed.
The figure for 2008 of virtual land imports is 35 million hectares.
In 2010 when EU agriculture production was high, our virtual land imports reduced to 26 million ha. If we increase production in the EU, we rely less on using land outside our borders for our food production needs.
If we produce less internally, we need to import more and thereby use, more land externally.
Agriculture and the Bio-economy
Agriculture is the cornerstone of the bio economy.
It is currently by far the largest part of the bio-economy of the EU.
Agriculture is and must remain the bedrock of our knowledge based bio-economy (KBBE) in Europe.
With the world’s population expected to increase by 2 billion people by 2050 – there will be a massive surge in demand for food and for energy, among other things.
Can we meet that challenge?
How will it be done?
Who will drive it?
And what are the consequences if we fail to deliver?
The consequences of our failing to deliver on the promises of the bioeconomy are immense. Political unrest over food is now an ever increasing problem; the scramble for scarce resources, including land, could polarize the world even further and lead to dire consequences.
To unlock the potential of the bio-economy we must unlock the potential of agriculture to deliver more, using less resources and polluting less.
We must change and challenge our attitudes to agriculture and realise that nurturing our agriculture and our farmers is a must to get the bio-economy to deliver.
When it comes to the food challenge there are two important issues.
Firstly we must stop dumping perfectly good food. We must reduce waste at every step in the chain from farm through to fork. Action is needed to tackle this issue. In January the European Parliament called for a multilayered approach to the food waste issue.
Up to 50% of edible and healthy food is wasted in EU households, supermarkets, restaurants and along the food supply chain each year.
That fact is all the more unacceptable when we know that 79 million EU citizens live beneath the poverty line and 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions.
Current wastage in EU27 is: 89 million tonnes per annum (i.e. 179 kg per capita)
Projection for 2020 – if no action is taken – is: 126 million tonnes (i.e. a 40% increase)
Responsibility for food waste:
- Households account for 42% (60% of which is avoidable)
- Manufacturers: 39%
- Retailers: 5%
- Catering sector: 14%
The Parliament has called for a reduction in food waste by half by 2025.
If we do nothing food wastage will grow by 40% by 2020 based on past trends.
We can no longer afford to stand idly by while perfectly edible food is being wasted. This is an ethical but also an economic and social problem, with huge implications for the environment.
To drastically reduce food wastage by 2025, new awareness campaigns are needed at EU and national levels to inform people on how to avoid wasting food and how to save money, something that should be appealing in these times of austerity.
To promote the idea of using food sustainably, MEPs called for 2014 to be designated as ‚ÄėEuropean year against food waste‚Äô.
Tackling food waste needs to involve food manufacturers and retailers. We need to look at food labels that indicate ‚Äėbest before‚Äô, – a quality related mark and ‚Äėsell-by‚Äô or ‚Äėuse by‚Äô dates, which are safety related. Consumers need the knowledge to understand the difference.
It will also involve looking at food packaging and portion size.
The second issue raised by the food challenge is to once again look very seriously at agriculture productivity which is in decline. This trend must be arrested if we are to address the food security challenge and it must be addressed in the developed and the developing world.
It is also vital that we do increase output from land so that we can provide the raw materials for the bio-industrial, refinery and processing sectors.
Of course, it is not just food that is wasted by the tonnes. Everywhere industry,including agriculture produce waste products. Some are already being used as the raw material for other processing industries and this is how it should be. We must make better efforts to continue this trend. But we must do it in a more holistic way, conscious of the implications. I say this in relation to recycling food waste, which must be done in a safe way, mindful of the possibility of contamination and other problems.
World Water Day
Last week we marked world water day.
Future population growth, urbanization, changing diets and development pressure on land and water (including resources allocated to biofuel production) and energy cost increases are all conducive to a progressive and severe water scarcity that will in turn undermine global food security.
As human beings we consume between 2 to 4 litres of water every day.
Most of this water is embedded in the food we eat:
To produce 1 kilo of beef it takes 15,000 litres of water;¬† 1 kilo of wheat ‚Äôdrinks up‚Äô 1,500 litres.
These conditions, along with the potential for droughts caused by climate change, could result in a massive increase in the number of people living in areas under water stress.
By 2030 the total population living in areas of high and medium water stress is expected to increase by 38% and 72%, respectively. Conversely, the increase in populations living in areas with low or no water stress will increase by only 4%.
Water pollution could also increase, with 5 billion people (1.1 billion more than today) in 2030 without connection to a sewage system (OECD, 2008c).
The very factors contributing to increased demand for agricultural products will increase water use in the future. Agriculture is the largest consumer of water globally, accounting for about 70% of all water withdrawals (OECD, 2008a). Meat production is especially water intensive.
Given these statistics it is no wonder that at every step of the supply chain, from producers to consumers, actions can and must be taken to save water and ensure food for all.
We can see that there are consequences from our dietary choices. Meat production requires significant volumes of water. Parts of the globe are now wishing to copy the dietary choices of the developed world. If they do, then issues arise in terms of demands on land and water.
However, increasing awareness of the water challenge among EU citizens is encouraging.
A recent eurobarometer survey published on Thursday last to coincide with world water day revealed that three quarters of Europeans think that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems in Europe.
A sizeable majority ‚Äď 68 % ‚Äď think that water-related problems are serious. Droughts, floods and chemical pollution are seen as significant challenges.
These issues will all be considered by the European Commission in the ‚ÄėBlueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources‚Äô planned for November 2012.
The Blueprint will identify current gaps and future priorities, and propose measures to steer water policy development until 2020. It will be based on an analysis that integrates economic and climate modelling in the period up to 2050.
EIP ‚Äď Innovation Partnerships
In the past many EU member states have had an integrated research and advisory service to ensure that knowledge was transferred from labs to land.
But, the legacy of the EU‚Äôs policy switch from production driven agriculture to environmental concerns is that we have in many member states weakened or dismantled the research and advisory service that kept new knowledge flowing into agriculture.
We are trying to rebuild that capacity with the more recent proposals from the EU Commission on European Innovation Partnerships in Agriculture and the proposal for a Farm Advisory Service contained in the rural development CAP reform proposals.
It will be interesting to see flesh put on the bones of this proposal. The emphasis on Innovation partnerships and advisory services is a recognition that there is something broken in the agriculture research and innovation area and it needs to be fixed.
Innovation in support of the bio-based economy has been identified as one of five central themes of the partnership, with special emphasis placed on supporting bio refineries and on strengthening the biobased value chain through improved information flow between farmers, researchers, scientists, NGOs and Industry.
The EIP is fully aligned with the EU‚Äôs Bio-economy strategy, which plots a roadmap for creating a society far less dependent on fossil fuels. Industrial Biotechnology plays a central role in achieving this, through the sustainable processing and production of products, chemicals, materials and fuels from biomass and agricultural waste, reducing the EU‚Äôs dependence on oil, coal and gas and creating jobs across a wide range of sectors and disciplines.
The development of the bio-economy sector is not without challenges. Not least the need for a more coherent approach to the bio-economy in our legislative and regulatory framework, but also ensuring that research is co-ordinated at an EU level to avoid duplication of spending and developing policies that stimulate the market for these products.
One of the greatest challenges of all is to link the bio-economy with the people. The debate about land use, about food versus non-food use needs to be resolved, as does the controversy surrounding new technologies, such as advanced breeding technologies and green biotechnology.
However, the development of our bio-economy resources can result in the maintenance and creation of economic growth and jobs in rural, coastal and industrial areas, the reduction of fossil fuel dependence and improvement in the economic and environmental sustainability of primary production and processing industries.
In essence what we really need is a widening of the debate about the bio-economy from researchers, scientists and policy makers into everyday conversation and the development of a coherent policy framework.
Under Horizon 2020, almost ‚ā¨ 4.5 bllion has been proposed for the Challenge ‚ÄėFood security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bio-economy‚Äô in addition to other EU rural development or cohesion funds available for the development of sustainable supply chains and facilities.
This increased research funding for the bio-economy under Horizon 2020 is estimated to generate an added value of about ‚ā¨45 billion and 130,000 jobs in bio-economy sectors by 2025 and is expected to contribute to the Commission’s Europe 2020 goals and to the roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy in 2050.
By 2030, the products of industrial biotechnology and bio-energy will have an estimated worth of euro 300 billion of industrial production.
The Climate Challenge
Agriculture both affects and is affected by climate change. No other sector is more climate sensitive. Agricultural and food production will be adversely affected by climate change.
Adaptation of the agriculture sector to climate change will be costly but necessary for food security, poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services. Reduction and removal of greenhouse gases (mitigation) from agriculture will also be necessary, if global mitigation efforts are to be successful.
By nature, agriculture and forestry are carbon sinks. They currently contribute, and could contribute more, to mitigating climate change by acting as carbon sinks and through their ability to maintain and increase existing carbon stocks.
While climate change introduces new challenges to food and agricultural production, bio-energy introduces new challenges on the demand side as the largest source of new demand for agricultural commodities.
The interrelated challenges of achieving global food security, adapting to and mitigating climate change, and meeting growing demands for energy cannot be addressed in isolation.
The current impetus for investing in improved agricultural policies, institutions and technologies, to meet food security and energy goals, offer a unique opportunity to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation actions into agriculture.
Emissions from the agricultural sector account for roughly 14 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Most emissions from agriculture (74 percent of the 14 percent total) and most of the technical and economic mitigation potential from agriculture (70 percent) are in developing countries.
Agriculture currently contributes about 14 pc to GHG emissions (6.8 Gt of CO2), but also has the technical potential to mitigate between 5.5‚Äď6 Gt of CO2 per year, mainly through soil carbon sequestration and mainly in the developing countries.
Increasing soil carbon sequestration through improved cropland and livestock management, forestry and agro-forestry initiatives and tillage practices, improving efficiency of nutrient management and restoring degraded lands, are examples of actions that have large mitigation potential and high benefits.
Increased production of biofuels
Production of biofuels from agricultural commodities has increased rapidly in recent years, and is projected to continue expanding in the future, due primarily to policy support measures and quantitative mandates in the developed countries.
These are motivated by interest in mitigating climate change by reducing or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing energy security by reducing dependence on imported oil, and supporting farmers by increasing demand for the crops they produce.
Impacts on climate change mitigation have been mixed so far, as greenhouse gas emission reductions vary widely across biofuels, feedstocks and production technologies.
Emissions reductions are estimated to be smallest (10‚Äď30 pc) for ethanol from maize in the United States and largest (70‚Äď90 percent) for ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil and second-generation biofuels.
But in all cases, emissions reductions will be smaller to the extent that increased biofuel production accelerates conversion of forests or grasslands to cropland.
Impacts on energy security have been limited, as liquid biofuels still represent only a small share of energy consumption ‚Äď about 1.5 percent of total road transport fuel and 0.2 percent of total energy consumption.
The International Energy Agency projects that biofuels‚Äô share of road transport fuel would rise to 5 pc by 2030, and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis estimates that this figure could reach 8 pc by 2050, depending on policies and technology.
Increased biofuel production has already had significant impacts on agricultural markets and food security.
Biofuels are the largest source of new demand for agricultural commodities in recent years, currently accounting for about 7 pc of global coarse grain use (rising to 12 pc by 2018), 9 pc of global vegetable oil use (rising to 20 pc by 2018) and 2 pc of global cropland (rising to 4 pc by 2030).
As such, they have contributed both to the recent spike in agricultural commodity prices and to the expectation that prices will remain high in the future, higher than they would be in the absence of increased biofuel production.
Higher food prices reduce access to food for consumers (including most of the world‚Äôs poor who buy more food than they produce, and who spend a large share of their incomes on staple foods).
In the short term, the benefits have gone primarily to farmers in developed countries ‚Äď who have good access to inputs, technology and markets (as well as policy support). In the longer term, however, higher prices could also benefit farmers and rural economies in developing countries ‚Äď if appropriate policies and investments are in place to improve their access to inputs, technology, credit and markets (and secure access to land).
Agriculture, food prices and water
Due to growing world demand for meat and biofuels, the average price of food, feed and energy commodities from 2008 to 2017 is likely to be significantly higher than the average price over the last decade and will reduce but not eliminate the long-term decline of prices in real terms.
This is even the case after the sharp fall in prices in early 2008 (OECD-FAO, 2008). Given the multitude of factors involved, it is difficult to project food and feed crop prices beyond 2017, but according to the OECD there may be an increase in output ‚Äď by extending the amount of land under cultivation, but this is not the answer.
Indeed the conversion of land to agricultural use, primarily through forest clearing in South America and Africa, could have significant environmental consequences, including large CO2 emissions and a loss of biodiversity.
The alternative solution is to increase yields through the adoption of intensive agricultural techniques.
We call this sustainable intensification of agriculture.
Bio-economy opportunities for regions and rural areas exist. They are being exploited in some member states. But, much more can and must be done.
The bio-economy has its very roots in rural areas. We need to engage with the stakeholders in these areas to bring them on board with the new bioeconomy.
We need investment.
The Super-cluster I referred to earlier required:
_ An investment of more than half a billion euro
- A collaborative effort of EU, two member states and 5 regional governments
_ A drive by industry, not government.
_ A prominent role for knowledge institutes like the University of Ghent, TNO Delft, University of Leiden, -but also colleges that prepare the technicians and practicians of tomorrow.
- The involvement of various sectors and synergy in practice (industry policy, regional policy, agricultural policy.
- New business models are created for failing industries like the flax industry which is turning from its traditional market to the bio plastic market.
The full potential of the bioeconomy in 2030 will not develop automatically.
Success will require intelligent and flexible government and EU policy and leadership to support research, markets, and create incentives for private firms to invest.
The bioeconomy holds at least some of the cards to ensure long term economic and environmental sustainability. But that potential will not become reality without attentive and active support from governments and the public at large.
Ideas from stakeholders.
- A Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) focused on the Bio Economy should be launched.
- Give a place to Bio clusters in the bio-economy panel.
- Multi-level governance should be applied to reach critical mass and policy coordination. Involve the regions at all steps of the policy cycle.
- A mapping of bio-clusters in Europe should be made to create synergy but also competition possible by setting benchmarks.
- Create more synergy and coordination between bio based initiatives financed from the various policy fields: energy, environment, agriculture, research and innovation etc.
- Take away Trade barriers to facilitate the import of bio-materials.
- Reshift the focus from energy to materials that are higher up the value pyramid.
- Make room within the next budgetary cycle for bio-economy projects. Room for improvement exists in the CAP and cohesion policy.
- More attention for bringing products to the market: from research to biobased products. Public awareness concerning the necessity for a knowledge biobased economy plays a role in this regard as well.
- Put innovation at the heart of all investment policies: at regional, national and European level.
The bioeconomy centres on how we use our natural resources to meet today‚Äôs needs and the needs of the future.
We cannot continue to waste natural resources producing food that is dumped.
Our future bioeconomy must be based on improving existing practices as much as on developing new initiatives.
And a final word on agriculture policy – the CAP and the bioeconomy.
So far much of the discussion has focused on the detailed greening measures proposed for pillar 1 payments – ecological focus areas, permanent pasture and crop diversification.
Are these measures consistent with the need for sustainable intensification of agriculture and the development of the bioeconomy?
I believe that the proposal amounts to the micro-management of farms by the Commission.
We know that there is a need to address the biodiversity challenge, to protect soils and to address the climate challenge.
What is not clear is how these three measures will address those issues.
We have not discussed the issue of land sparing versus land sharing. The Commission proposal has opted for the land sharing option, where agriculture and nature share the space.
However, research shows that land sharing may not be the best choice.
Land sparing beats land sharing for flora and fauna, yet this issue has not arisen in the discussion so far.
As the discussions intensify we will need to address this issue.
To get the most from our natural resources we need to work together, to understand the complexity of the issue and put in place policies and programmes which allow us get the benefits which a fully developed bioeconomy can yield.