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Saturday, April 28, 2012

In New US "Bioeconomy", Industry Trumps Environment

Critics warn that the formulation of the
National Bioeconomy Blueprint focuses
too much on economic concerns,
placing too little emphasis on either
social issues or on the environment itself.
(Orlando Florin Rosu/Fotolia.com)
In New US "Bioeconomy", Industry Trumps Environment by Carey L. Biron

Petrochemical industry looks to profit from unregulated biotechnology market


WASHINGTON - The White House on Thursday announced the formulation of the National Bioeconomy Blueprint, aimed at shoring up the U.S. commitment to bioscience-related research.

 But critics warn that the new program focuses too much on economic concerns, placing too little emphasis on either social issues or on the environment itself.

"We're disappointed to see what finally came out," Eric Hoffman, a Washington-based campaigner with Friends of the Earth, an international NGO, told IPS. "This report largely seems to be an endorsement for the biotechnology industry to rush ahead without any real oversight."

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The biotechnology industry "says that it has been calling for this type of legislation for long time," Hoffman notes. "That makes sense, given that the industry stands to gain the most from the types of policies laid out in the Blueprint."

Hoffman says that the biotechnology industry includes many of the largest oil and petrochemical producers – ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Monsanto, Dow. The lack of plans for government regulation apparent in the Blueprint leaves him pessimistic that much "clean, green" technology will come out of the new effort.
He also points to a recent study by the Woodrow Wilson Center, based here, that found that "zero percent" of federal funding of synthetic biology was going into risk assessment. "That's not how you have an honest policy debate," he says.

The government itself defines the bioeconomy as "economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences". In the Blueprint, the issue of environmental concerns is dealt with only tangentially, although the general push is to phase out fossil fuels and industrial materials in favor of organically based compounds and "green" approaches.

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