Publication date: 08/03/2024


This piece addresses the political dimension of sustainability in the agricultural bioeconomy by focusing on power, participation, and property rights around key technologies. Bioeconomy policies aim to establish economic systems based on renewable resources such as plants and microorganisms to reduce dependence on fossil resources. To achieve this, they rely on economic growth and increased biomass production through high-tech innovations. This direction has sparked important critique of the environmental and social sustainability of such projects. However, little attention has been paid in the bioeconomy literature to the political dimension surrounding key precision technologies such as data-driven precision agriculture (PA) or precision breeding technologies using new genomic techniques (NGT). The political dimension includes questions of power, participation, and property rights regarding these technologies and the distribution of the benefits and burdens they generate. This lack of attention is particularly pertinent given the recurring and promising claims that precision technologies not only enhance environmental sustainability, but also contribute to the democratization of food and biomass production. This contribution addresses this claim in asking whether we can really speak of a democratization of the agricultural bioeconomy through these precision technologies. Drawing on (own) empirical research and historical evidence, it concludes that current patterns are neither driving nor indicative of a democratization. On the contrary, corporate control, unequal access, distribution, and property rights over data and patents point to few gains for small firms and breeders, but to a reproduction of farmers’ dependencies, and less transparency for consumers.

Resource type: article: Web Page