The Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) launched its 4th Foresight report in Brussels on 8th October. SCAR was formed in 1974 with the aim of achieving better coordination of agricultural research in Europe, and has an important role in contributing to strategic and operational planning and policy development, as well as helping to shape the European Research Area and the Horizon 2020 programme. In 2014, it widened its remit to extend beyond agriculture and include the bioeconomy sectors of forestry, fisheries and aquaculture and bio-based products. The bioeconomy refers to those parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources from land and sea e.g. crops, forests, fish, animals and micro-organisms, to produce food, material and energy, and it offers an alternative to the current fossil-based economy.
In this latest foresight exercise, the SCAR working group was tasked with exploring the interaction between the primary production sector and the bio-economy. A key question is how the primary sectors are affected by, and can contribute to, the implementation of the bioeconomy strategy and CAP reform. The purpose of the exercise was to identify emerging research questions, anticipate future innovation challenges and explore what might happen by developing the Bioeconomy paradigm within the fundamental constraint of sustainability.
Biomass is defined in its widest sense – as the output of primary sectors (agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry) as well as by-products and waste streams. The report identifies two premises: first that current biomass is being underexploited i.e. too much waste is not being used optimally, and more material and energy can be extracted from current biomass streams; and second, that biomass potential can be upgraded by closing yield gaps (particularly in Africa and Eastern Europe) and introducing new or improved species and new or improved extraction processes.
The report introduces five key principles for a sustainable bioeconomy (most of which will sound familiar to those in the organic and agroecological sector:
The report proposes eight research themes to address the multiple challenges the development of the bioeconomy within the five principles above:
The importance of the Knowledge and Innovation System (KIS) as the foundation for research and innovation was recognised in order to develop and spread knowledge and opportunities. Trans-disciplinary KIS that combine multiple theoretical perspectives and practical methodologies should be used to tackle the research questions above.
The report can be found here
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