At the EURACTIV network office in Boulevard Charlemagne the 10th of April took place the event The Role of Bioeconomy in the CAP. The conference has been an opportunity to discuss the present and the future of the EU bioeconomy strategy and the related issues with other experts. As a matter of fact, the bioeconomy is expected to play an important role in low emission economy, bringing together demands for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, food safety and the use renewable biological resources for industries while protecting biodiversity and the environment. The European Commission has set a long term goal to develop a competitive, resource efficient and low emission by 2050. An update of the original bioeconomy strategy is in fact, necessary to accelerate the deployment of a sustainable European bioeconomy so as to maximize its contribution towards the 2050 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the Paris Agreement.
But what does bioeconomy exactly mean? The name bioeconomy comes from the diversified needs of contemporary reality that has to deal with a growing demand for resources (water, materials, food and energy). The challenge that the bioeconomy wants to address is to create a circular economy, in which states, businesses and citizens can be integrated in an organic way, reworking the precious heritage of the agrarian economy. The use and sustainable disposal of biological resources are therefore the fulcrum of the confrontation that the contemporary world is facing before the future.
During the EURACTIV panel on 10th April qualified experts tried to reply to a question: what kind of bioeconomy do we need and how it fits into the debate on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)? Mr. Mindaugas Maciulevicius opened the conference presenting the position of the European Economic and Social Committee’s Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment Section (EESC), he remarked the importance and the role of the farmers in the cooperative sustainability as well as the need of built up the bioeconomy project in accordance with the climate change issues. “It is very important to include farmers and farming regions into the bioeconomy but also to secure sustainability on a social, ecological and economic level” he said. According to him, sustainability is the key word and due to it, it is necessary to increase the cooperation between regional governments, farmers and scientists as well as investments in rural regions.” And as he said, “it is all about combing everything”.
Experts also argued about the importance of combining the use of resources and to keep an eye on consumption as well as our production. Regarding to that, Waldemar Kutt, head of the unit of the bioeconomy strategy at the European Commission, pointed out that different policy areas needed to be connected. Moreover he has outlined that bioeconomy does not mean just bio-based economy under which is often confused. In fact, bioeconomy has not the purpose to replace CAP or climate strategy, rather is based on the aim of strengthen them. Therefore, strategy should be defined as something that reinforces the CAP in many agricultural sectors and aims to combine the use of resources. According to Kutt, bioeconomy has a three-dimensional meaning. Firstly an active one which is to transform biodegradable waste into products and offer farmers new assets; secondly a social one with the aim of inclusion of rural regions through the use of bioeconomy at a regional level and lastly a bioeconomy framed by planetary boundaries and opportunities.
As, member of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Angelique Delaheye has set out the role of plant protein production and debated how the existing and future policy framework could support the further unlocking of potential for plant protein production in the European Union. She said “Bioeconomy should be the basis for a new model for our agricultural sector”. The protein strategy could not only offer European farmers an additional income but would also help the EU address the current protein deficit and allow it to avoid dependence on genetically modified or imported foodstuffs. An interesting perspective from farmers themselves was offered by Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of Copa-Cogeca, he pointed out how the development of bioeconomy has great potential to support farmers in better valuing their production and help the environment. The purpose of the updated European Bio-economy Strategy is, in fact, to further develop a bioeconomy that valorizes and preserves ecosystems and biological resources, drives the renewal of our industries and the modernization of primary production systems. Is spite of all of this, Ms. Joanna Dupont-Inglis, director of EuropaBio, Europe’s largest and most influential biotech industry group, added a controversial point about the progress of biotechnology in Europe, which could be the leader in this transformative sector if it stopped to buy foodstuffs and technologies from China.
Overall, there is a long way to go in the field of bio-economy, there are still disparities at a regional level adopting measures to combine funds from cohesion policy, and the CAP is fundamental. Moreover, it is important not to forget that sustainability is one the main challenge for the future policies of the EU. Furthermore we need to be careful and reduce the global overconsumption, as Harriet Bradley, EU agriculture and bioenergy policy officer at Birdlife International to conclude, highlighted saying that production needs to be more intelligent and bio-economy needs to be sustainable.