The global political bioeconomy; flex crops, bio-production and the future of agriculture.

Molly Bond (University of Bristol)
Elizabeth Fortin (University of Bristol)
Daubeny Laboratory (Magdalen College)
Start time:
12 September, 2016 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel will foster discussion on the politics and transformations of the global bioeconomy for agriculture, livelihoods, land-tenure and sustainable development. How are relations between scientists, importers, exporters and growers of biomass changing or reinforcing the global North and South divisions?

Long abstract:

Under the banner of sustainable development and greener capitalism, the global bioeconomy has been promoted as a technological and economic way of delivering what the UN has titled the 'Future We Want'. The US, EU, OECD (and others) have produced policy documents for the future bioeconomy. These political agendas essentially promise the same thing; that 'addressing the grand societal challenges' of the 21st Century - (economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability) - can be achieved by transforming the carbon found in biomass (biological resources) into any commodity currently produced by fossil carbons, the bases of almost all globally traded energy, chemical and material commodities. New research has begun exploring the implications of this bio-industrial shift to trade, development and agriculture. With 86% of biomass located in the global south, a new international division of labour in agriculture between exporters and importers of biomass is emerging (World Economic Forum 2010). Certainly the rise of flex crops (crops such as sugarcane that can be grown flexibly for biofuel-electric-plastic or for biotechnological conversion) are early evidence of this (Borras et al 2016). This panel will consider how the bioeconomy and the growing demand for biomass can avoid repeating the negative impacts that biofuel production had upon food security, land-tenure, and livelihoods. The panel invites papers that consider various issues and implications of the bioeconomy for sustainable development. And aims to foster discussion on the rise of flex crops, lessons from biofuels, next-generation biotechnology, bio-industrial production networks, dynamics between biomass exporters and importers, and the constellations of political, economic and corporate power arising in and between global (bio)economies.