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CONSERVATION Seas need both

COMMENT BOOKS Birds, beasts and DEVELOPMENT African nations OBITUARY Jerome Bruner,
marine protected areas and the brain: holiday reads must invest to stem brain cognitive psychology
fisheries management p.224 from Nature reviewers p.228 drain p.231 pioneer, remembered p.232
LALO DE ALMEIDA/CONTRASTO/EYEVINE

A truck full of sugar cane crosses farmland in Brazil, a leader in bio-based ethanol production from the crop.

Five cornerstones of a
global bioeconomy
Beate El-Chichakli and colleagues outline principles for coordinating
bio-based industries to achieve many of the sustainable development goals.

M
ore than 40 nations1 are proposing Union, Japan and the United States see impede producers in poorer countries who
to boost their ‘bioeconomy’ — expanding the bioeconomy as a means of lack testing infrastructure. In India and Brazil,
the part of the economy based reindustrializing and creating wealth (see strict bio-piracy regulations, which aim to
in biology and the biosciences. Around ‘Bioeconomy breakdown’). Emerging indus- protect biodiversity and traditional knowl-
US$2 trillion of products in agriculture and trial economies such as China and India see edge, are failing to benefit local populations
forestry, food, bioenergy, biotechnology biotechnology as a nascent field of innovation and are stalling international research in plant
and green chemistry were exported world- in which they can quickly compete. Brazil, biodiversity.
wide in 2014, amounting2 to 13% of world South Africa and Malaysia are investing to Without agreed global priorities and
trade, up from 10% in 2007. These sectors add value to their vast biological resources. assessment methods, it is hard to take into
are central to at least half of the UN Sus- Ecological sustainability is a prime concern account such indirect effects and trade-offs.
tainable Develop­ment Goals (SDGs), from in rich and industrializing countries; inclusive Global investments in information collec-
food security to ensuring energy access and rural development and equitable sharing of tion such as satellite tracking of biomass
health. But conflicting national priorities resources is central in developing countries. call for joint action. Nations will fund DNA
make it hard to align bioeconomy policies Knock-on effects of decisions made in one barcoding of rare rainforest hardwoods or
to meet the SDGs on a global scale. place may be felt elsewhere. The EU’s plan to use genetic stock identification to manage
Bioscience leaders such as the European ecologically certify its bio-based products will fisheries only when such technologies are

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COMMENT

internationally used and enforced.


I NN OVAT I O N S I N T H E B I O EC ON OM Y In Nove mb e r 2 0 1 5 , m ore t h an
700 experts from around 80 countries met
Scoring Sustainable Development Goals in the first Global Bioeconomy Summit in
Berlin. We, as members of the International
SDG 2: END HUNGER Food security is the top construction will need only 200 people to Advisory Committee on the Bioeconomy
priority5. More-efficient animal production run it but creates another 2,500 jobs across (comprising 37 experts from around the
and meat substitutes are needed. Chicken the value chain for growing, harvesting and globe who shaped the summit) outline the
is more sustainable than beef, owing to transporting biomass. principles that were agreed and the steps
lower greenhouse-gas emissions and needed to advance them, as well as illustrat-
water needs. Genomic technologies will SDG 11: SUSTAINABLE CITIES Biological ing how these can be applied to individual
need to be applied to more foods, as principles — such as metabolisms, SDGs (see ‘Scoring Sustainable Develop-
they have been to dairy cattle, chicken, ecosystems and cycles — can be applied ment Goals’).
salmon, tilapia, rice and banana. Farmed to help cities to function sustainably1. Local
seafood production must be boosted and production and recycling systems minimize DIFFICULT BALANCE
will require new vaccines and molecular emissions and waste. Renewable resources, A global bioeconomy must rebuild natural
diagnostics to reduce antibiotic use, as cultivation methods and biotechnology capital and improve the quality of life for a
well as sources of protein-rich feed. can close material and energy cycles and growing world population. It should balance
loops. For example, Edmonton in Canada is managing common goods, such as air, water
SDG 3: ENSURE HEALTHY LIVES Sustainable aiming to recover 90% of its organic waste and soil, with the economic expectations of
medicines, such as biopharmaceuticals, and convert domestic waste into biofuels. people. Three types of innovation will be
and microbiome-based approaches are needed: technological (such as systems to
needed for infectious diseases such as SDG 12: SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION Bio-based reduce emissions), organizational (changes
malaria and epidemics including diabetes materials and chemicals are increasingly in institutional behaviour) and social (such
and obesity. For example, production deployed in industries such as plastics as job creation). For example, new sorts of
of semi-synthetic artemisinin from processing, consumer goods, construction, sustainable building materials based on
microbially sourced artemisinic acid is pharmaceuticals and medical technology. wood or lignin (a compound found in many
an early success story for combining Switching from fossil to bio-based plant cell walls) will need to be integrated
metabolic engineering and synthetic materials would make a big difference in into building codes. Also needed will be
biology in the commercial production of the chemicals sector, which has the third- citizen-science evaluations of new houses,
drugs against malaria6. largest emissions in industry, after steel local wood-recycling and construction
and cement. Using enzymes in detergents efforts. Sustainable food systems will require
SDG 6: WATER AND SANITATION FOR ALL In has enabled consumers to significantly advances in plant breeding, food products,
developing countries, 90% of sewage and reduce washing temperature, for example. and farming and cultivation techniques, as
70% of industrial wastes are discharged well as steps to optimize shelf-life and food
without treatment. Advances in biological SDG 13: COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE Bio-based distribution, and social initiatives such as
wastewater treatment, including industries are active in carbon storage and the revival of traditional crops, food-sharing
phosphorus removal and nitrification, mitigating climate change. Biotechnology platforms and low-meat diets.
hold potential if implemented more companies are collaborating with heavy Inclusiveness and knowledge transfer are
widely. Small, modular systems should be industry to make carbon dioxide emissions important. For example, biotechnology infra-
spread to remote communities, and large, into bio-based chemicals and biofuels7. structure and skilled employees are found
intensive plants can cater for city-sized mostly in high-income countries, whereas
populations. SDG 14: OCEANS, SEAS AND MARINE RESOURCES local biological know-how and reuse culture
Illegal, unreported and unregulated are strong in developing countries. Supply
SDG 7: ENERGY FOR ALLMost developing fishing remains a major threat to marine chains should create local jobs, with manu-
countries have unreliable energy systems. ecosystems8. The need for traceability is facturing close to the raw-material base. For
Burning wood or manure leads to urgent — one-third of the world’s fisheries example, bioenergy mini-grids or bricks-
health problems, premature deaths and catch from 1950–2002 lacked species from-waste production plants increase local
deforestation. Decentralized, modern identification. The use of DNA barcodes energy access and jobs in rural India.
solutions that combine bioenergy in a global database — the Barcode of Regulatory frameworks for intellectual
with other renewables are needed. For Life Data System — could be expanded to property, the access to and use of genetic
example, an Indian social enterprise has address traceability and fish fraud as well resources, biosafety and the ethics of bio-
implemented dairy and biogas production as yielding information on migration and sciences and industrial standards all need
and local mini-grids electrified by biogas dispersal. to be reviewed. Globally agreed standards
from waste or by eco-briquettes. on the measurement and definition of bio-
SDG 15: TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEM With limited based products — such as the carbon foot-
SDG 8 & 9: SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH land area, agriculture must be intensified. print and sustainability of bioplastics — are
Combining rural regeneration with And farming must decouple from the needed. A certifying and testing body must
reindustrialization offers increased fossil-fuel industry. Advanced breeding be independent and international to establish
sustainability and inclusiveness. Brazil, a technologies can avoid soil exhaustion and public confidence and enable countries that
leader in bio-based ethanol production degradation. Self-fertilizing versions of food lack capacities to benefit from the results.
with around 300 operating sugar-cane staples such as maize (corn), wheat, barley
or ethanol mills, is commercializing and rice, and fertilizing soils by microbial FIVE CORNERSTONES
production of cellulosic ethanol. In communities, could become feasible Unifying principles for a global bioecon-
Finland, a large biorefinery currently under through bioengineering in a decade. omy need to be put in place by international
policy bodies, multilateral trade negotiators

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BIOECONOMY The European Union’s biology-based industries account for 17 million jobs, or 8.5% of the region’s workforce (A) and generate
SOURCE: REF. 9 (EU)

more than €2 trillion (US$2.2 trillion) annually (B). Equivalent statistics are unavailable elsewhere, but US industries producing

BREAKDOWN bio-based products (non-food) account for about 4 million jobs and US$370 billion. India’s bioeconomy surpassed US$4 billion
in 2013. And Brazil’s sugar-cane industry accounted for 2% of its gross domestic product and 4.5 million jobs in 2012.

A EU’s bioeconomy employment: 17 million jobs Food, beverage and tobacco


Agriculture
25% 56% 4% 7% 4%
Paper manufacturing
4.3 million 9.7 0.6 1.1 0.7
Wood manufacturing
Bio-based textiles
1% 1% Bio-based chemicals
0.2 0.1 <1%
Forestry
Fisheries
Biofuels
Bio-based electricity
Agriculture dominates Non-food products such
jobs, whereas food as paper, furniture and
creates most profit. textiles generate about
€480 billion.
B EU’s bioeconomy turnover: €2 trillion
55% 19% 9% 8% 4% 3% <1%
€1.12 trillion 380 billion 178 153 78 52

2%
35

and the corporate sector. internationally to define the knowledge, professor of microbiology and molecular
First, international collaborations skills and competencies required for genetics at the Technical University of
between governments and public and private developing a bioeconomy that enhances Berlin, Germany, and co-chair of the
researchers are essential for optimizing the sustainable use of bio-based materials Bioeconomy Council of the German Federal
resource use and sharing knowledge. For in manufacturing and in consumer prod- Government. Daniel Barben is professor
instance, international initiatives that bring ucts. This will require an interdisciplinary and director of the Institute of Science,
together bioscience and IT are needed in approach that emphasizes systems think- Technology and Society Studies at the Alpen-
sustainable intensification and global soil ing, strategic planning and evaluating Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria, and
mapping, to agree common protocols. The environmental, social and economic per- a member of the Bioeconomy Council of the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the formance, as well as an understanding of German Federal Government. Jim Philp
United Nations (FAO) established a Sustain- technologies and local specifics. Govern- is a policy analyst at the Organisation for
able Bioeconomy Working Group in 2016 ments should build international teaching Economic Co-operation and Development,
and could develop such a forum. and learning exchanges into research pro- Paris, France.
Second, ways to measure the bioecono- grammes. Open learning platforms would e-mail: james.philp@oecd.org
my’s development and its contributions to allow the sharing of curricula and training
1. Communiqué of the Global Bioeconomy
the SDGs need to be found. Priority targets, content. Summit. Making Bioeconomy Work for Sustainable
such as food security, and assessment crite- Fifth, research-and-development Development (2015); available at http://
ria need to be agreed internationally, led by support programmes are needed to go.nature.com/293zhq2
2. Intesa SanPaolo. La bioeconomia in Europa: 2°
global organizations such as the UN and its encourage global collaborations in a few Rapporto (2015); available at http://go.nature.
subsidiaries. National monitoring systems breakthrough projects. For example, 300 com/29as14n (in Italian).
should include the international dimen- experts concluded 4 that collaboration 3. Coady, D., Parry, I., Sears, L. & Shang, B. How
sion so that a country could examine how in bioeconomy research would be most Large Are Global Energy Subsidies? (International
Monetary Fund, 2015).
its practices might affect others. This will needed in the following areas: new food 4. Bioökonomierat. Global Visions for the
entail efforts to make related data openly systems, bio-principled cities, sustain- Bioeconomy: An international Delphi-Study (Office
accessible. able aquaculture, biorefineries, artificial of the German Bioeconomy Council, 2015);
available at http://go.nature.com/29rz1fx
Third, bioeconomy initiatives need to be photosynthesis, consumer and citizen 5. von Braun, J. in The Fight Against Hunger and
linked more closely with multilateral policy participation and global governance. Malnutrition (ed. Sahn, D.) 240–262 (Oxford Univ.
processes and intergovernmental discus- Discussions on these five cornerstones Press, 2015).
6. US National Academy of Sciences.
sions, particularly the SDG 2030 agenda should begin now, so that structures can be Industrialization of Biology: A Roadmap to
and follow-ups to the Paris climate and Aichi in place before the next Global Bioeconomy Accelerate the Advanced Manufacturing of
biodiversity agreements. A UN body on bio- Summit in 2017. ■ Chemicals (National Academies Press, 2015).
7. Peplow, M. Nature Biotechnol. 33, 1123–1125
economy needs to be set up to handle the (2015).
coordination. Carbon pricing, the costing Beate El-Chichakli is head of the Office 8. Food and Agriculture Organization of the
of other negative impacts (including indi- of the Bioeconomy Council of the German United Nations. The State of World Fisheries and
rect costs such as air pollution and climate Federal Government, Berlin, Germany. Aquaculture 2014 Highlights (FAO, 2014).
9. Ronzon, T., Santini, F. & M’Barek, R. The
change) and the removal of fossil-fuel sub- Joachim von Braun is director of the Center Bioeconomy in the European Union in Numbers
sidies are necessities for meeting the SDGs. for Development Research and Professor for (2015); available at http://go.nature.
Fossil energy received a staggering $5.3 tril- Economic and Technological Change at the com/291rc3I
lion, or 6.5% of global gross domestic prod- University of Bonn, Germany, and co-chair The views expressed are those of the authors
uct, in post-tax subsidies in 20153. of the Bioeconomy Council of the German and not necessarily those of the OECD or of the
Fourth, educators should collaborate Federal Government. Christine Lang is governments of its member countries.

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