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Bioeconomy Panel Discussion Bioeconomy Expected to Drive Future Growth

| Editor: Doris Popp

The bioeconomy is at the very essence of a green growth strategy. However, the bio-based economy is still a long way off, even if some promising approaches are already evident at CLB in Leuna/Germany.

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With Prof. Kurt Wagemann from Dechema acting as moderator, panel members representing the business, government and scientific communities discussed the prospects for the bioeconomy in Germany.
With Prof. Kurt Wagemann from Dechema acting as moderator, panel members representing the business, government and scientific communities discussed the prospects for the bioeconomy in Germany.
(Picture: Dechema; [M]-Albrecht)

That was one of the major conclusions from the panel discussion on the bioeconomy. There was a considerable level of consensus but also differing opinions, which is hardly surprising given the fact that the business, government and scientific communities were represented on the panel.

The discussions covered a lot of territory ranging from acreage limitations on biomass utilization and the level of acceptance for green genetic engineering to possible criteria for a green label which could be used to identify products from sustainable production systems. Green genetic engineering is a typical source of controversy.

Based on various panel discussions, Georg Schütte, Undersecretary at the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), gave a positive assessment of the level of acceptance for a technology which could help feed the world population. M. Fleckenstein from WWF was more skeptical. “In our view, genetic engineering is a business model which is linked to agrochemicals." In contrast, there was a consensus on the panel regarding the usefulness of a green label for biomass-based products. A certification system for BTL strategies is currently under development.

Fleckenstein however warned against confronting consumers with too many quality labels, as public acceptance is vital. The recent E10 fiasco shows how difficult it can be to generate public enthusiasm for biomass-based products. A central issue for realization of the bioeconomy will certainly be the availability of biomass from sustainable production. Clemens Neumann, head of the Bio-based Economy section at the German Agricultural Ministry, is convinced that sufficient reserves of arable land are still available worldwide.

However one thing is certain. Research initiatives alone will not be sufficient to speed up the structural transition to the bio-based economy. “We need additional economic growth, and the bioeconomy can be the source of that growth,” said Dr. Holger Zinke, CEO of the biotech company Brain. With its national Bioeconomy 2030 research strategy, Germany is setting the direction and is at the forefront of technology, claimed Undersecretary Schütte. In Zinke’s view, mobilization of industry and capital will be a decisive factor. Otherwise the excellent technical basis will come to nothing.

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