Growing the Biobased Economy

Strategies must address the needs of new customers and the challenges of building a sustainable supply chain

Fifteen years ago, six companies formed the industrial biotechnology section of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). In the days before RFS1 and RFS2, the goal was simple: create a vision and advocate for the biobased economy. The challenges now facing the industry require a rededication to the original vision and new initiatives to defend and expand it.

It was February 18, 1998. The Dow Jones Industrial Average of the New York Stock Exchange closed that day at 8,451. Oil was trading at about $25 per barrel; corn for around $2.50 per bushel. Annual ethanol production capacity was 1.4 billion gallons. Not a single industrial biotech company was publicly traded. Novozymes was still to be spun out of Novo Nordisk. Dow Chemical was the most heavily and widely invested strategic player in the space. DuPont and Genencor were developing biobased 1,3-propanediol. Cargill-Dow was in the final stages of piloting its polylactide technology. And BIO had about 15 staff members.

For the six companies around the table on February 18th, the first priority was to establish some brand equity for the industrial application of biotechnology. At the time, only two biotechnology applications – human pharmaceuticals and agriculture – were recognized. That was step one in attaining the other critical objectives: policy incentives, pre-commercial federal Research Development & Demonstration (RD&D) money, and investor interest.

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Tags: biofuels, politics, sustainability, starch ethanol, cellulosic, RFS, PET, corn, soy, agriculture, food vs. fuel


GEN, 2013-02-25.


American Petroleum Institute (API)
Avantium Technologies B.V.
Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)
Cargill, Inc.
Coca-Cola Co.
Dow Chemical Company
Ford Motor Company
Fuels America
Gevo Inc.
Heinz Company
Levi Strauss & Co.
NatureWorks LLC
Novo Nordisk A/S
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Procter & Gamble
Rockefeller University
The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
University of Minnesota
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
US Department of Energy (DoE)
Virent, Inc.