VivAgora, UNESCO and some thirty partners place bioindustry in the ethical and political arena
We all sense it, the living world is taking over... oil. As non-renewable raw materials become scarcer and global warming risks exceeding 2°C by the end of the century, the natural capital or "biomass" constituted by forests, crops, seas and more generally all living organisms is becoming an inexhaustible resource. If only we could spare it! And if use rhymed with regeneration. This is indeed the challenge of the beginning of the 21st century.
Agrofuels, bioplastics and "bio-based" chemicals are leading the way to a bioeconomy based on life. According to the OECD, the global market for industrial biotechnology could reach some 300 billion euros per year by 2030, five to six times more than today.
Pressure is mounting to explore and extract the riches of biodiversity, increase plant yields, produce various substances and materials in plants, animals and microorganisms, make synthetic beings capable of new functions, create artificial meat.
Biopower and biocapital
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After all, the aim is to feed 9 billion people by 2050, and to satisfy their energy and material needs!
Multinationals already dominate the race for biomass: those in the energy (Exxon, BP, Chevron, Shell, Total...), pharmaceutical (Roche, Merck...), food (Unilever, Cargill, DuPont, Monsanto, Procter&Gamble...) and chemical industries (Dow, BASF...) sectors. They aim to optimize the performance of organisms through various technologies: genetic engineering, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, green chemistry...
The industrialization of biology
These projects offer real prospects for meeting the food, environmental, climate and energy challenges... provided that the use of ecosystems and terrestrial and marine life is reasonable and sustainable, that the resulting benefits are shared, and that there is public and democratic control of these uses.
For there is a risk that the concentration of power within "agro-info-energy" consortiums, the monopolization of natural resources through property rights and patents, will deprive populations and countries of access to these "common goods" and reduce their food and energy security. Scientific and technical approaches, which rely on a respectful relationship with ecosystems and the rights of populations, such as agroecology, agroforestry and the development of "bio-inspired" products, show that it is possible to use natural resources sustainably and with good yields.
Can the bioeconomy be responsible?
With the Assises du VivAgora, VivAgora, UNESCO and their twenty or so partners want to question the uses of living things, their relevance and their sustainability. The subject is crucial for our democracies, faced with enormous ecological, health and ethical challenges after the failure of Rio+20. This event can be one of the crucibles from which criteria for a responsible bioeconomy and social ecology will emerge.
Among the stakeholders :
Dominique Bourg, Philosopher, University of Lausanne; Sandrine Bélier, EELV Member of the European Parliament; Pierre Monsan, Toulouse White Biotechs project leader; René Passet, Economist; Vincent Schächter, Vice-President Research & Development Total New Energies; Hélène Tordjman, Economist; Pierre-Henri Gouyon, Evolutionist (MNHN); Pierre Calame, President of the Léopold Mayer Foundation; Bernadette Bensaude Vincent, Philosopher, President of VivAgora; Alain Lipietz, Economist.
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