Commission official: ‘Bioeconomy is a unique opportunity to address societal challenges’


More and more member states are adopting bioeconomy plans and the EU is actively encouraging its Central and Eastern European partners to develop their own strategies. EurActiv Slovakia talked to the Commission’s John Bell about the issue.
John Bell is the director of the European Commission’s Bioeconomy Directorate, DG RTD.

Bell was interviewed by EurActiv Slovakia’s Andrej Furik.


Aren‘t strategies for bioeconomy and circular economy just two sides of the same coin?

Both bioeconomy and circular economy are part of the “green economy”, whose goal is to increase prosperity while maintaining the natural systems that sustain us. Although bioeconomy and circular economy share this common vision, they are not two identical concepts.

Namely, circular economy refers specifically to an industrial economy that is restorative by intention and promotes greater resource productivity and efficiency. It addresses materials that are not of biological origin alongside biological resources and encourages waste reduction throughout the product supply chain and a product’s life cycle.

Bioeconomy also aims for such circularity but in addition also focuses on the sustainable production of biological resources, notably biomass, via sectors ranging from agriculture, forestry, and fisheries to aquaculture. In addition to the production of these primary resources, it encompasses biomass converting industries – ranging from food to bio-based and energy industries.

Additionally, the bioeconomy addresses more than production; it focuses on biodiversity, ecosystems and renewable energy. The bioeconomy’s cross-cutting nature offers a unique opportunity to reconcile competing uses of biomass while comprehensively addressing major societal challenges, such as reducing dependence on fossil resources, or global food security, while addressing trade-offs.

Thus, both circular economy and bioeconomy work to reinforce one another and it is important to fully unlock their potential.

How important is public support for the uptake of bioeconomy? What is the European Commission doing to promote bio-based solutions?

Bioeconomy is a complex and multi-layered field where developing new value chains depends on the active collaboration of a broad range of stakeholders, like farmers, industry, researchers and public authorities. This implies developing new synergies but also new interdependencies, all of which also imply the building of trust between stakeholders.

Furthermore, bioeconomy products and services can only become economically viable when they are accepted by society, which not only depends on the quality of these products and services itself but also on the trust citizens have in the governance of bioeconomy, for example that the bioeconomy adheres to principles of sustainability and social equality.

It is therefore crucial that society is involved in the development and governance of bioeconomy. Consequently, as underlined during the Bratislava Bioeconomy Conference 17 October, proper societal engagement, awareness, education and training schemes should be developed, since there is no sustainable bioeconomy without the direct involvement of civil society in a co-construction mode, with societal appraisal of bioeconomy.