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CONTEXT & VISION

The bioeconomy encompasses more than just food production; it also includes industries whose goal is to create equivalents or substitutes for petroleum-based products, including cosmetics, materials, lubricants, and energy. The chemical processes used are sustainable, environmentally friendly, and based on renewable carbon inputs; they thus minimise the environmental damage caused by the inevitable production of goods. The bioeconomy represents an alternative to the fossil-fuel-based economy, which exhausts non-renewable natural resources. It takes advantage of biotechnological processes and secondary products derived from bioresources with the goal of promoting a circular economy. Among the competing and complementary uses of bioresources, food production is prioritised, a fact that is reflected by the current practice of dedicated land use.
The development of the bioeconomy requires a shift in perspectives:

  • Bioresources should be exploited following a three-tiered approach of fractionation, interconversion, and product cascades implemented by biorefineries;
  • Relationships among stakeholders should be reshuffled—technological tools could allow for a permanent reorganisation of the industrial hierarchy, where flows of materials, energy, and information are optimised between the chemical industry and the agriculture or forestry industries;
  • More attention should be given to a systems-level approach to the ecodesign of products, which could be used to account for links between the bioeconomy and biodiversity, competing product uses, and social perceptions of the bioeconomy.

The global redistribution of bioresources is causing shifts in the geopolitics related to regional and national autonomy. Contrasting perspectives have emerged, in which there is differentiation among regional biorefineries located in production basins, harbour biorefineries, industrial ecosystems, and—at a smaller scale—proposed environmental biorefineries (treating waste or byproducts) on the outskirts of large urban centers.
Given these circumstances, the following responses are necessary:

  • Meeting human needs (e.g., for clothing, bioenergy, hygiene, and housing) at least partially using “bioeconomic” products and processes
  • Promoting the circular economy by taking a regional approach to the production and processing of bioresources (all the way down to waste) that respects pedoclimatic conditions, biodiversity, and human resources
  • Developing an economy of diversification of sources with a basis in agroecology
  • Developing diverse sources of protein that will make it possible to respond to challenges related to sustainability and autonomy