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Carolina Givoni and Bruno Pacheco – from Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Transforming natural resources into profitable business without destroying the environment. This is the power of bioeconomy, an economic model based on productive chains that preserve biodiversity. In Brazil, the sector already moves around US$ 326 billion, according to the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES). And the Amazon, which concentrates the largest biodiversity, has great development power. The standing forest yields R$ 7 trillion a year, according to two surveys. But it is still difficult to measure the value of the sector in the region and it is necessary to invest in science, technology and infrastructure so that the Amazon can transform native fruits and seeds into clean economic growth.

The first study that demonstrates the economic value of the preserved forest is the Spatially Explicit Valuation of Ecosystem Services in the Brazilian Amazon Forest, published in 2018 by Britaldo Soares Filho, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), in partnership with the World Bank. The second is from the 2014 Changes in the Global Value of Ecosystem Services, which in Portuguese means Changes in the Global Value of Ecosystem Services, led by Robert Constanza of the Australian National University.

But how does the bioeconomy exploit the environment while preserving biodiversity? By using production chains that do not destroy the environment, through processes that replace fossil and non-renewable resources in the production of bioenergy and chemical inputs and products designed from the biological base.

In the European Union, the bioeconomy is consolidated, being responsible for injecting $2.3 trillion into the block’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in addition to having economic maturity, employing 18 million people on the European continent, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Based in Brazil since 1980 with the National Alcohol Program (Pró-Álcool), the bioeconomy largely has potential and advantage in the use of biomass in the production of biofuels. Brazil, according to the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol.

In the Legal Amazon, the nine states concentrate the bioeconomic starting point mainly in fruits typical to each region. But the region still faces basic problems, such as the almost non-existent development of science and technology and poor infrastructure, which greatly hinders the advancement of bioeconomy businesses. There are efforts being made, but data on the sector are the Amazon Biotechnology Center (CBA) and the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Amazon (Idesam), which work with bioeconomy, do not have surveys with general data on how much the sector moves in the region.

However, it is possible to get an idea of the Amazon potential for the bioeconomy. In Amazonas, the largest Amazonian state, the State Department of Economic Development, Science, Technology, and Innovation (Sedecti) estimates that the sector represents less than R$100 million, or less than 1% of the state GDP. For the holder of Sedecti, Jório Veiga, the segment is still “crawling” in Amazonas.

Still according to Sedecti, the bio-economy may move about 10% of the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 15 to 20 years. In 2020, Amazonas’ GDP reached R$105 billion. If the bioeconomy in the state represented 10% of last year’s GDP, the sector would move around R$10.5 billion. And this would only be in one of the nine states of the Amazon.

In this report, CENARIUM MAGAZINE will address in the following pages how the bioeconomy sustains itself as a business in the Amazon, the insertion of traditional people and communities, as well as the main responsible for generating development in the sector. Scientists, economists, environmentalists, and other experts detail how extractivism and bioeconomy-related activities impact the region and assess profitability, viability, and the future of economic activity in the region.

Potentialities in the Legal Amazon – Map with the nine states of the Legal Amazon and their products highlighted. Source: EMBRAPA (Renan Máximo/Cenarium)