How do we calculate the benefits of biotechnology?

This was the question discussed yesterday during the kickoff of the BIO IMPACT Webinar Series. Stakeholders across the bioeconomy provided insights on how we can calculate the benefits of sustainability practices and ensure they can be widely adopted.

The biotech sector is uniquely positioned to play a major role in climate mitigation efforts—by creating tools to power a low-carbon economy, as well as by promoting sustainability within their organizations.

But sustainability is about more than just the environment—and we need to understand how to calculate the benefits of these initiatives, panelists agreed in a discussion moderated by Doug Berven, VP of Corporate Affairs for POET, the world’s largest producer of biofuels.

It’s important to think about ESG (Environmental/Social/Governance) “in a much more holistic way,” including “equity, justice, diversity, inclusion,” said Sasha Calder, Head of Sustainability for Genomatica, which uses biotech and fermentation to turn plant-based ingredients into materials like fabric.

Keeping equity in mind and breaking down barriers to adopting more sustainable practices is essential, said Callie Eideberg, Director of Government Relations for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “How do we figure out how to move forward with market-based solutions but also be very cognizant of the history and the past and not make the same mistakes that have been made before?”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can play a role in ensuring carbon markets are transparent, so “all farmers of all sizes are actually able to participate,” she added—read what she told a House panel about how we can make carbon markets work.

Furthermore, the federal renewable fuel standard structure is “not adequate” for future challenges, said Colin Murphy, Deputy Director of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy. “A more proactive, more innovative, and far-reaching fuel policy” is needed at the national level, setting targets “at least a decade ahead.”

Better data collection would improve sustainability efforts, he added. “We could make a lot more informed policy and be more precise and accurate in our recommendations if we had better data.”

To build trust in biotechnology, we need to effectively communicate how technological development is leading to better outcomes, said Steve Brody, Senior Director of Global R&D, External Affairs, Genus PLC, an animal genetics company that’s breeding more resilient livestock.

The bottom line: Humans created climate change—and with biotech, we have the tools to “science our way out” of the mess, BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath wrote in STAT News.

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