The term bioeconomy refers to the share of the economy based on products, services, and processes derived from biological resources (e.g., plants and microorganisms). The bioeconomy is crosscutting, encompassing multiple sectors, in whole or in part (e.g., agriculture, textiles, chemicals, and energy). Many predict that the bioeconomy will be a key component of the future economy. Specifically, many view the development of and transition to predominantly a bioeconomy as a means to address grand challenges such as climate change, food security, energy independence, and environmental sustainability. Advancing the bioeconomy is also viewed as an opportunity to create new jobs and industries, improve human health through the development of new drugs and diagnostics, and boost rural development. Some experts estimate the direct economic impact of bio-based products, services, and processes at up to $4 trillion per year globally over the next 10 years.
U.S. competitiveness and leadership in the future global bioeconomy is uncertain. In 2012, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a comprehensive vision for the U.S. bioeconomy. Progress on the goals and objectives outlined in the report remains unclear. Since 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy have led federal efforts on development of the U.S. bioeconomy. However, according to the International Advisory Council on Global Bioeconomy, such agencies have a “more agricultural and bioresources-based vision” than the crosscutting and comprehensive vision proposed by OSTP in 2012 (e.g., biomedicine, health, and biodefense are not emphasized). Organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, have recommended that the federal government develop and regularly update a comprehensive bioeconomy strategy to sustain and grow the U.S. bioeconomy.
On September 12, 2022, the Biden Administration issued an executive order creating the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative with the goal of accelerating biotechnology innovation and growing the U.S bioeconomy across multiple sectors. Other countries are adopting and implementing comprehensive policies and strategies to advance their bioeconomies. Such efforts have the potential to challenge U.S. leadership in biotechnology and other bioeconomy-related sectors that many view as critical to national security and economic competitiveness.
Congress may consider a number of issues regarding advancement of the U.S. bioeconomy, including the development and implementation of a national bioeconomy strategy, federal investments in bioeconomy-related research and development, expanding the bioeconomy workforce, promoting and furthering the development of regional bioeconomies, increasing both the market for bio-based products and services, as well as public awareness and acceptance of bio-based products and services.
Conversely, Congress may decide there is no need to restructure federal activities and policies, including some long-standing efforts (e.g., bio-based fuels or agricultural biotechnology), under a bioeconomy framework. Congress may decide to pursue bioeconomy-related policies through new or existing sector-specific efforts, or it may decide current policies and activities are sufficient.