Obama Administration Releases National Bioeconomy Blueprint

The Obama Administration unveiled a plan today to develop the US Bioeconomy.

We’re not sure if this "bioeconomy" is meant to further genetically modified organisms and/or to promote a transition from a petroleum-based economy to a biobased one. We hope it’s the latter, but we’re afraid it’s both.

The European Commission adopted this same strategy in February, but it focuses on sustainable industrial processes. Obama’s plan extends to the economy generally including the health care system.

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint says the "use of biology can allow Americans to live longer, healthier lives, reduce our dependence on oil, address key environmental challenges, transform manufacturing processes, and increase the productivity and scope of the agricultural sector while growing new jobs and industries."

The blueprint announces the Administration’s commitment to strengthening bioscience research as a major driver of American innovation and economic growth.

It shines a light on using petroleum substitutes for meeting society’s needs for everything from food to clothing, from housing to sources of energy and chemicals for manufacturing. 

"Recent advances in the biological sciences are allowing more and more of these needs to be met not with petroleum-based products and other non-renewable resources but with materials that are quite literally home-grown," says the report.

The report says that advances in genetic engineering, DNA sequencing, computing and other disciplines can lead to liquid fuels produced directly from carbon dioxide, biodegradable plastics made from biomass, tailored foods to meet specialized dietary requirements and personalized medical treatments based on a patient’s genetic makeup.

The blueprint provides for bioeconomy-related education and training and removing unnecessary regulatory barriers from labs to the marketplace. It emphasizes the importance of ensuring adequate attention to environmental and health concerns related to these processes – we presume that means speeding approval for GMOs. 

The plan is already being pursued.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint outlines five strategic imperatives:

  1. R&D investments that provide the foundation for the future bioeconomy, prioritizing multidisciplinary efforts.
  2. Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market such as using the government’s buying power.
  3. Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.

  4. Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.
  5. Identify and support opportunities for development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations – where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.

Along with the release of the Bioeconomy Blueprint, several agencies made commitments to support its goals: encourage Federal procurement of an expanded range of bio-based products; take better advantage of large pharmaceutical data sets to speed drug development; apply the latest genomics discoveries to quickly identify emerging microbial threats; and accelerate research on non-embryonic stem cells as possible treatments for blood-related and neurological diseases.

Here’s the plan:

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