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Working Paper 9

Sugarcane Industry Expansion and Changing Land and Labor Relations in Brazil. The Case of Mato Grosso do Sul 2000–2016 (in English)

by Kristina Lorenzen

The objective of this paper is to assess how the expanding production of sugarcane-based bioethanol as part of an emerging bioeconomy affects existing social inequalities in land and labor relations. The paper shows that the expansion of the sugarcane industry in the Brazilian federal State of Mato Grosso do Sul transformed existing labor regimes of peasants and Indigenous people.


Working Paper 8

Sustainable palm oil or certified dispossession? NGOs within scalar struggles over the RSPO private governance standard (in English)

by Janis Wicke

Palm oil has become a contradictory and highly controversial resource for biofuel production in the context of emerging bioeconomy policies in Europe and Southeast Asia. Referring to the theoretical politics of scale framework, I analyse the launch of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil private governance standard as a spatial transformation of the regulation of palm oil production. The current paper will focus on the role of NGOs in the process of standard negotiation and implementation in different locations and at different levels of society. I argue that Indonesian NGOs have been relatively successful in advocating the rights of local disfranchised population groups such as palm oil workers, small farmers and affected communities in international negotiation processes. However, I also assert that the lack of enforcement of the standards on the ground seriously undermines NGO advocacy within the framework of the RSPO. These findings suggest that actors shaping the outcomes of bioeconomy policies cannot solely rely on private governance standards to prevent social and environmental problems arising as a result of the production of energy crops.


Working Paper 7

“My future depends on how many fruit bunches I can harvest”. Migrant workers in the palm oil sector in the wake of a Malaysian Bioeconomy (in English)

by Janina Puder

In 2012 Malaysia launched its Bioeconomy program, with the palm oil sector as one of the main pillars. In focusing on the societal processes that accompany the Malaysian plans to establish a Bioeconomy it is of special interest to understand which occupational groups in the palm oil sector are included and which are excluded from the socio-economic targets of the program. The literature on Bioeconomy, as well as more broadly on Green Economy, often underexposes the effects green economy models could have on labor markets. The paper argues that low-skilled migrant workers employed in the Malaysian palm oil sector are structurally excluded from the national goal of enhancing the living and working conditions of the population by transforming into a Bioeconomy. It will be shown that Malaysia’s Bioeconomy program reinforces the precarity of this group of workers, expressed in the lack of perspectives for upward mobility.


Working Paper 6

Whose European Bioeconomy? The Orientation of EU Bioeconomy Policy Following its Update (English version of WP4)

by Malte Lühmann

In recent years, the EU has established its own bioeconomy policy. An important step in this process has been the development of a bioeconomy strategy, which was launched in 2012. In this strategy, the EU-Commission formulated guiding principles for the bioeconomy in Europe, with major emphasis on research and innovation. In the course of 2017 a review of the strategy was launched, leading to the publication of an updated document in October 2018. The review-process entailed the possibility to reassess the overall direction in this policy field. Political actors from different sectors of society and with diverging views on the bioeconomy have taken part in these developments. They brought their positions into the review of the strategy. However, the range of positions has not lead to a fundamental debate on the aims and the substance of the strategy. As a result, the bioeconomy policy remains unchanged in terms of its orientation.


Working Paper 5

Bioeconomy in Transplantation Medicine. Our Understanding of Bodies, Health and Life in Transition (in German)

by Ronja Wacker

The health sector builds as the third major driving force, together with industry and primary production, the foundation of the bioeconomy. The biotechnological innovation generated here are supposed to revolutionize therapy, diagnostics and medication and make the whole sector sustainable. Showing, that this transition does also deeply affect our understanding of bodies, health and life, will be the focus of this paper. Starting with a historical perspective on the preconditions of an emerging bioeconomic health sector, the text will progress to the question, how bioeconomy can be conceptualized following the debates on Foucault’s biopolitics and Marx’ theory of capital subsumption. The implicit processes, which form these conceptualizations, will be illustrated by the example of transplantation medicine, where they proceed to the innermost parts of the human body – organs, tissue and body fluids – and are ultimately changing our understanding of bodies, life and health.


Working Paper 4

Whose bioeconomy for Europe? The direction of the EU-bioeconomy politics after its update (in German)

by Malte Lühmann

In October 2018, the EU-commission launched an updated bioeconomy strategy after a review process. This process entailed the possibility to reassess the overall direction in this policy field. Political actors from different sectors of society and with diverging views on the bioeconomy have taken part in these developments. However, the updated bioeconomy policy remains largely unchanged in terms of its orientation. In this paper, these findings are presented and explained, taking into account the role of hegemonic narratives and ideas, as well as the relations of forces in European society.


Working Paper 3

The conflict surrounding wind energy projects in the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Renewabe energies and politics of scale (in English)

by Rosa Lehmann

Large scale wind farms are highly contested. In southern Mexico, especially local residents protest against the construction of these projects of transnational companies, which generate electricity from renewable resources for end consumers in other parts of the country. The Working Paper describes the context and the main issues of conflict. It examines with a perspective on scale, power relations and politics, why and on which scale actors benefit or not, which strategies actors pursue to assert their interests, and on which power resources they can rely on in this process of rescaling. The paper argues that this is a fruitful perspective to analyze political processes and conflicts related to renewable energies.


Working Paper 2

Bioenergy in the Reorganization of Europe’s Electricity Supply. The Strategic Practices of the Biomass Association AEBIOM
(in German)

by Tobias Haas

Since the 2000s, the share of renewable energy has been increasing steadily. The transition to renewable energy is proceeding faster in the electricity system than in heating and cooling or in the transportation system. In this working paper, we analyze from a (neo-)Gramscian perspective (1) the role of bioenergy within the struggles over the reorganization of energy supply, (2) how the central association of bio-energy providers (AEBIOM) acts in the contested designing of the new renewable energy directive and (3) which conflicts and potentials arise with the extension of bioenergy use.


Working Paper 1

Bioeconomy Strategies in Comparison Commonalities, Contradictions and Blind Spots 
(in German)

by Maria Backhouse, Kristina Lorenzen, Malte Lühmann, Janina Puder, Fabricio Rodríguez, Anne Tittor

This Working Paper undertakes a comparative analysis of the bioeconomy strategies of the EU, OECD, US and Malaysia as well as official papers of the National Scientific Council of Argentina, the Ministry of Science of Brazil and the agriculture and energy strategies of Indonesia. The key questions of interest relate to the definition, problems and goals of the bioeconomy. A comparative view suggests divergent understandings of this concept. While bioeconomy and biotechnology are used almost synonymously in the OECD and US strategies, Germany and the EU define the bioeconomy as a biomass-based economy. All other definitions can be situated between these two groups. All strategies share the common feature of justifying the bioeconomy by referring to crisis -scenarios and global challenges, with climate change and population growth at the forefront. The argument is usually connected to food security, energy and water supply, and the finite nature of fossil resources. These problems are generally cited to justify the necessity for a transition towards the bioeconomy. Additionally, all papers share an optimistic position with regards to the use of biotechnological innovations to overcome socio-ecological crises. The advancement of bioenergy is an essential part of all bioeconomy strategies, although different levels of emphasis apply. Public support for the biotechnological optimization of plants and microorganisms as sources of energy is regarded as key, as well as the expansion of biorefineries and the development of next generation biofuels. To conclude, this working paper discusses contradictions in the bioeconomy strategies such as the limited participation and consideration of civil society actors as well as the omission of organic farming, while outlining possibilities for further research.