Microbiologists and the Bioeconomy: Powering Innovation

Feb. 9, 2024

The interdisciplinary nature of the microbial sciences positions the field of microbiology to play a pivotal role in further developing a robust bioeconomy, using biological resources to produce goods—including food and drug products—provide services, create jobs, deliver economic benefits and create new uses for renewable materials. On a global scale, biotechnology and biomanufacturing are instrumental to improving the well-being and sustainability of our planet—achieving climate and energy goals, improving food security and advancing overall human and animal health. Microbiologists can help define the bioeconomy, influence policies and elevate the role of microbes in a bio-based economy.

Microbes and Microbial Processes are Foundational to the Bioeconomy.

Microbes serve as the ultimate organisms for research that has generated breakthrough technologies, from recombinant DNA technology to CRISPR gene editing and more. Microbes are the source of industrial catalysts, and they drive the production of everything from food to chemicals, pharmaceuticals and antimicrobials. Microbes form the basis of next generation, bio-based fuels and chemicals, and as innovative inhabitants of every corner of the planet, they are readily adaptable to changing environments.

Defining and Growing the Bioeconomy are Global Priorities With Vast Potential for Microbiology. 

Although the U.S. has not adopted an official definition of bioeconomy, other countries have adopted frameworks and are implementing policies and strategies to advance their respective bioeconomies. A consistent definition will help quantify the impact of the bioeconomy on U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and help convey its importance and competitiveness on a global scale. A strong definition would also communicate the breadth and importance of funding biological research and development, with implications for the microbiology workforce, biodiversity and federal resource allocation.

The Bioeconomy is Vital for National Security and is a Priority for Policymakers.  

If the U.S. does not step up investment and coordination in the bioeconomy, we will lose the opportunity to provide guidance and leadership in a potentially large, sustainable growth sector. In addition to economic risks, lagging in biotechnology makes us more vulnerable to biological threats. 

As policymakers consider how to carefully balance promotion and protection of the bioeconomy, data security and ever-evolving biological threats, microbiologists should have a seat at the table and play a prominent role in discussing the risks and benefits of biotechnology research, development and applications.

What Can Microbiologists Do to Help?

Microbiologists can help define the bioeconomy by communicating with policymakers and the public about the potential of microbes to create products and processes that support human, animal and environmental health. 

Microbiologists can influence policies by identifying missed opportunities, roadblocks and funding gaps and sharing their concerns with colleagues, policymakers and ASM’s Public Policy and Advocacy team. Additionally, they can elevate the role of microbes in a bio-based economy by sharing the value of their work in addressing pressing societal issues, like infectious disease, climate change and food safety and security. 

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.