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Visions Of Sustainability In Bioeconomy Research

S. F. Pfau, J. Hagens, B. Dankbaar, A. Smits
Published 2014 · Engineering

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The rise of the bioeconomy is usually associated with increased sustainability. However, various controversies suggest doubts about this assumed relationship. The objective of this paper is to identify different visions and the current understanding of the relationship between the bioeconomy and sustainability in the scientific literature by means of a systematic review. After a search in several databases, 87 scientific journal articles were selected for review. Results show that visions about the relationship between bioeconomy and sustainability differ substantially. Four different visions were identified, including: (1) the assumption that sustainability is an inherent characteristic of the bioeconomy; (2) the expectation of benefits under certain conditions; (3) tentative criticism under consideration of potential pitfalls; and (4) the assumption of a negative impact of the bioeconomy on sustainability. There is considerable attention for sustainability in the scientific bioeconomy debate, and the results show that the bioeconomy cannot be considered as self-evidently sustainable. In further research and policy development, good consideration should therefore be given to the question of how the bioeconomy could contribute to a more sustainable future. Furthermore, it is stressed that the bioeconomy should be approached in a more interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary way. The consideration of sustainability may serve as a basis for such an approach.
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