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Bruno Pacheco – from Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – “We need this caboclo to have a dignified life, so that he doesn’t need it to pillage the biodiversity”, defends the researcher from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), in the Western Amazon area, Edson Barcelos da Silva. For him, the bio-economy could contribute more effectively to improving the lives of families who live off extractivism in the Amazon region.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines the bioeconomy as “a world where biotechnology contributes an important share of economic production”, relating an “emergency factor” to principles related to sustainable development, as well as environmental sustainability. A chain that involves elements such as knowledge, renewable biomass, integration between applications, and biotechnology.

According to the researcher, however, the concept of bioeconomy has been shaped according to convenience and not the real Amazonian potential. “Today, the bioeconomy can be ethanol, rubber production, fish farming, everything that is vegetable production, biological can be framed in the bioeconomy”, Barcelos points out.

Reality x Expectation

Edson Barcelos also recalls that the “popular imaginary” about the bioeconomy generates an expectation about the segment’s performance being a highly evolved process that uses the Amazon’s plant items to produce miracle drug molecules, as well as to cure diseases, such as cancer or HIV.

“[The molecules] that are going to change our life, but actually that’s not it. This is one part of the bioeconomy focused on pharmaceuticals, phytotherapeutics and cosmetics, or the production of high value-added oils. This is a huge market and the Brazilian industry has no tradition of developing pharmaceutical products”, said the specialist.

Challenge

The great global challenge, according to Barcelos, is to find a solution for sustainable development that occurs through bioeconomy and biodiversity. This would require a much greater effort than usual, with investment in training specialized labor, infrastructure, as well as the construction of laboratories, energy development, market opening and maintenance, in addition to the creation of high quality products capable of meeting the demands of international markets.

“What is invested in research is very little compared to the size of the region and the lack of knowledge about the Amazon. There is nowhere to copy from, that is, we have other places that develop knowledge, but we have to develop our own, according to our potentialities”, Edson commented.

Questioned about the reason for the difficulty in developing the Amazon by means of bio-economy, even though Brazil has 20% of the world’s biodiversity and most of this percentage belongs to the Amazon Forest, Edson Barcelos explained that the segment is almost 100% based on science and high technology, something far from the reality of the region.

"What is invested in research is very little compared to the size of the region and the ignorance about the Amazon", says Edson Barcelos, an Embrapa researcher in the Western Amazon.
Edson Barcelos, Embrapa researcher in Western Amazonia (Ricardo Oliveira/Cenarium)

Biodiversity

Examples of the use of Amazonian biodiversity are trees like the rubber tree, even though the region no longer produces rubber. As well as cocoa, the nut and the açaí. Fruits like guaraná, as well as pupunha, andiroba, copaiba, among others.

In the short and medium term and through extractivism, the local population can benefit from the bio-economy, producing raw materials essential for subsistence, such as açaí. In the long term, as there is domestication of fruits, vegetables, or other materials from the biodiversity, a better quality of life is expected for the Amazonian people.

Edson Barcelos defends that it is necessary to ensure these benefits for the population, allied to the standing Amazon forest: “It’s no use the caboclo having oxygen ‘up to the tucupi’, but being hungry, with sick children, without health and education. We need this caboclo to have a dignified life, so that he doesn’t need to squander the biodiversity”, he stresses.