2012 volume 30(2) pages 282 – 296

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Richardson B, 2012, "From a fossil-fuel to a biobased economy: the politics of industrial biotechnology" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 30(2) 282 – 296

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From a fossil-fuel to a biobased economy: the politics of industrial biotechnology

Ben Richardson

Received 7 December 2010; in revised form 22 July 2011

Abstract. Industrial biotechnology involves the replacement of petrochemical processes and inputs with more energy-efficient and renewable biological ones. It is already being used in the production of biofuels and bioplastics and has been touted as a means by which modern economies can be shifted toward a more competitive, low-carbon growth model. This paper does two things. First, it outlines the policy framework established in the European Union and the narrative of a knowledge-based bioeconomy (KBBE) underpinning this. Second, it argues that the ‘win – win’ rhetoric contained within the KBBE narrative is misleading. Among the different groups commenting on the use of industrial biotechnology, the paper locates cleavages between farmers and agribusiness, between those convinced and those sceptical of environmental technofixes, and between procorporate and anticorporate NGOs. Taken together, they show the purported transition from a fossil-fuel to a bio-based economy to be a resolutely political one.

Keywords: industrial biotechnology, biofuels, knowledge-based bioeconomy, European Union, political economy

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