Bioeconomy: A Global Need, An Opportunity for the Americas
The world is travelling on a path that is incompatible with the economic, social and environmental objectives that it has set itself.
This situation calls for developmental strategies that are based on the intensive and efficient use of biological resources, technologies and processes, and enable us to provide goods and services in a sustainable way, to the benefit of our societies. That is exactly what the bioeconomy is all about.
What started as a strategy to optimise our use of the latest knowledge in the biological sciences, primarily biotechnology, evolved into a broader vision to spur more sustainable development, based on production and consumption patterns in line with resource conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation objectives.
By 2050, a larger, richer, more urban and older population will compel us to almost double agricultural production, but with less land and water at our disposal, due to the decline in the average cultivated area per person (25% less), less availability of water resources, loss of biodiversity and natural resources and the impact of climate change.
This is a daunting scenario that creates the need for a more sustainable and inclusive agricultural and rural model that does not sacrifice growth or efficiency. The bioeconomy offers concrete alternatives and answers to this challenge and its strategic relevance is clear. It is linked to the achievement of at least 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It represents a new and powerful opportunity for the world, but more so for the Latin America and Caribbean region (LAC), which encompasses eight of the seventeen most megadiverse countries on the planet. LAC has more than one quarter of the world’s arable land and one third of its fresh water resources, making it one of the leading producers of sustainable biomass.
Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
The bioeconomy also gives a new perspective to the age-old agriculture vs. industry controversy in development strategies. Old sectorial “lines” become blurred and of little relevance; new value chains and new ways of exploiting biological resources emerge.
The bioeconomy journey is already underway in LAC:
- We are capitalizing on the biological wealth of the region, thereby strengthening production development, through the adoption of low-carbon and climate resilient crop varieties.
- Waste is being reused for productive purposes, enabling the non-agricultural use of biomass, and resulting in more sophisticated value chains in sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals and fashion.
- Rural areas are becoming biofactories, they are developing into areas of opportunity and progress, because there is no need to transport biomass and transforming biomass within the territories means knowledge and value-added products creation.
- The economic density of territories is boosted and the interrelationship between chains optimized by utilizing resources and biological processes in a more efficient and sustainable manner. This added value through knowledge obliterates the outdated notion that agriculture is solely tied to the production of primary products.
The growth in the world market of some of the main bioeconomic products is twice or three times that of most basic agricultural commodities, with rates exceeding 12% annually, and climbing to as high as 25% annually in the case of biofuels.
The vision of the bioeconomy in Latin America and the Caribbean is still being shaped. The development and implementation of strategies, policies and programs for agriculture and the rural sector, based on a new regulatory and incentive framework, will transform the region and provide a new source of opportunities. The journey has begun.