Sustainable and circular bioeconomy for food systems transformation

FAO presents its new sustainable bioeconomy programme to the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC)


BIC General Assembly marks ten years of the European Union Bioeconomy Strategy

FAO was at the forefront of discussions at the General Assembly of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), which took place in Brussels on 18-19 May. For the occasion, BIC Executive Director Dirk Carrez invited Lev Neretin, lead of FAO’s programme priority area on Bioeconomy for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, and FAO bioeconomy expert Marta Gomez San Juan, to deliver a keynote speech to BIC members and to participate in the networking and matchmaking workshop sessions with the European Commission (EC) and other members.

About BIC

BIC is a non-profit organization founded in Brussels in 2013 that is focused on strengthening the bio-based industries sector in Europe. BIC also represents the private sector in a public–private partnership with the EC, the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU). CBE JU is a EUR 2 billion partnership, which succeeds the Bio-based Industries Joint Understanding.

With more than 240 industry members (of which are 80 percent SMEs), BIC harbors a unique network of cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary experts in the field of bio-based industries in European and non-European countries such as Brazil and the United States of America. It also has over 150 associate members including research and technology organizations, technology platforms, public institutions, regional organizations, and private banks. 

Sectors of expertise range from agriculture and food science, to chemicals and materials, technology providers, forestry, wood, pulp and paper, and waste management. BIC’s industry members have all committed to invest in collaborative research, development and demonstration of bio-based technologies within the CBE JU partnership.

FAO’s contribution

In his keynote speech to the plenary session of the General Assembly, Lev Neretin outlined the critical role FAO’s “Towards Sustainable Bioeconomy Guidelines” project has played in disseminating knowledge on sustainable and circular bioeconomy practices, not least through the International Sustainable Bioeconomy Working Group and the recent Guidance note on monitoring the sustainability of the bioeconomy at a country or macro-regional level, a joint publication between FAO and the EC’s Joint Research Centre. The FAO project marks many years of collaboration with the European Union Bioeconomy Strategy, the tenth anniversary of which was being celebrated in Brussels.

Neretin also introduced FAO’s new priority programme area on Bioeconomy for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, outlining the opportunities over the next decade for sustainable and circular bioeconomy solutions to bring about transformative change in agrifood systems. Examples provided included innovations related to microbiome science, alternative proteins, circular waste management, food loss reduction, and agricultural biologicals for improving ecosystem health.

The FAO presentation was delivered alongside those of John Bell, Director of “Healthy Planet” in the EC’s Directorate-General of Research & Innovation, and Prof Dr Iris Lewandowski, Chief Bioeconomy Officer, University of Hohenheim and Co-Chair of the German Bioeconomy Council.

After the keynote addresses, BIC members expressed great interest in FAO’s role, recognising the need for FAO’s sustainable bioeconomy work to accelerate agrifood systems transformation. They also acknowledged how technologies used by companies in the bioeconomy sphere can have high environmental impacts and signaled their interest in engaging further with FAO on how to drive truly sustainable solutions.

Main takeaway

The general consensus among BIC members at the event was that more sustainable business models and policies should be promoted to improve the enabling environment for private industries involved in disruptive bio-based technologies to ‘leapfrog’ towards greater sustainable development. They urged FAO to continue engaging and collaborating with the private sector on sustainable and circular bioeconomy to help accelerate the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals in a coherent manner. 


Photo: Marta Gomez San Juan (© Lev Neretin)


FAO Sustainable and Circular Bioeconomy


Guidance note on monitoring the sustainability of the bioeconomy at a country or macro-regional level

Aspirational principles and criteria for a sustainable bioeconomy

How to mainstream sustainability and circularity into the bioeconomy? A compendium of bioeconomy good practices and policies