Let’s choose the bioeconomy to build the “new normal” world

by Boris DUMANGE, General Manager of the IAR cluster

Our society is vulnerable. The COVID-19 crisis severely exposes its fragility: our indigenous industries are sorely depleted (lacking masks, pharmaceutical raw materials, medical equipment); our multiple addictions risk causing serious disruptions in our supply chains; we are simply not ready for the future health and environmental crises that human activity increasingly triggers.

Faced with these findings, it is necessary to consider the “new normal” and anticipate the challenges that we will have to face.

As Director of IAR, I am convinced that the bioeconomy is part of the collective response that we can provide to preserve our lifestyle over the long term by adopting a sustainable model that guarantees  our food and energy security and develops regional industry and local job opportunities.

But what is the bioeconomy? Let’s say, to put simply, the bioeconomy brings together all the production and processing activities of agricultural, forestry and aquaculture raw materials. Or, to make even simpler, that extracts from living matter all the fibers and molecules that are of interest for food and industrial applications.

Biofuels, plastics, composite materials, glues, paints, concrete, textiles, food packaging… The bioeconomy offers tangible, clean and sustainable applications in many areas of our daily life: food, energy, construction, cosmetics, transport, industry, chemicals… For example, it transforms sugar beet into biofuel, wheat into detergent, corn into bioplastic, flax into a composite material as resistant as carbon, hemp into natural insulating concrete …

The bioeconomy is also a creator of local jobs that cannot be repatriated because they are anchored in our fields. Biorefineries, in which plant biomass is processed, are located regionally in close proximity to our French and European primary producers. For example, the Pomacle-Bazancourt biorefinery (Marne), the largest in Europe, brings together researchers, farmers and manufacturers; it directly employs more than 1,200 people, generates three to four times more indirect jobs and transforms 4 million tonnes of biomass per year into sugar, glucose, starch, food or pharmaceutical alcohol, cosmetic active ingredients, etc., for further processing into environmentally responsible industrial products.

In an agricultural country such as ours, with its fertile land and natural resources such as wood and algae, it is possible to set up locally many efficient, productive and green biorefineries, and to significantly increase the share of the bioeconomy in our production ecosystem.

The bioeconomy is a social project that brings together producers, manufacturers, associations, SMEs and start-ups, academics, politicians, citizens, to provide concrete and sustainable solutions to replace raw materials that are often polluting, increasingly rare and expensive. Even more laudable, it will contribute to our industry, as well as our agricultural practice, reducing their impact on water, air, soil and biodiversity. Bioeconomy is a choice!

The proponents of curtailment will no doubt argue that it is always about industry and responding to the increasing consumer demands of a constantly growing population. This is not without merit. But while being cognizant of everyone’s needs, we should always strive to offer healthy and sustainable food, energy, consumer goods, housing and transport. And Made in France.

While we may not have oil; we have our ideas … and passionate and efficient producers and manufacturers open to new processes, internationally recognized innovative academics, pioneering and daring entrepreneurs, deeply engaged associations, committed policies, citizens demanding an alternative, green economy, clean and renewable raw materials … all contributing to make the bioeconomy, the economy of tomorrow.

A sustainable, collective and responsible economy.

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