The previous two parts of this report describe the components of the bioeconomy, the ecosystem in which the bioeconomy operates, and articulate its economic importance. This holistic examination enabled the committee to identify risks related to the bioeconomy and potential policy options for addressing those risks. This discussion responds directly to elements of the committee’s Statement of Task and a major motivating factor for the commissioning of this study.
Chapter 7 reviews the risks identified by the committee that pertain to the U.S. bioeconomy. These risks are divided into two major categories: those related to failing to promote the U.S. bioeconomy (risks resulting from actions or inactions that could prevent the bioeconomy from flourishing), and those resulting from a failure to protect the U.S. bioeconomy (risks to the bioeconomy and risks posed by its subversion or misuse). The discussion also addresses policy tools that could be used to mitigate the identified risks, and considers the implications of such measures.
While it is impossible to imagine the absence of a U.S. bioeconomy, should the U.S. bioeconomy not reach its potential, the benefits it might otherwise have delivered would be forfeit. These benefits might include safer and improved foods, advanced materials, sources of clean energy, pharmaceuticals and improved health, a cleaner and lower-carbon-emission environment, jobs, and economic growth—all of which would either be foregone or require importation from economic competitors overseas. In the latter case, U.S. consumers might still benefit, but U.S. producers
would lose “first mover advantages” and leadership in the relevant technologies. These risks are addressed in Chapter 7 with respect to certain aspects of the bioeconomy, but they are not explicitly quantified or analyzed in depth; they represent the cost to the United States of not realizing—or not realizing first—the various benefits sought from the bioeconomy that have been discussed elsewhere in this report.
This chapter sets the stage for the final part of the report, in which the committee provides its overall conclusions and recommendations.