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Sustainable capital? The neoliberalization of nature and knowledge in the European 'knowledge-based bio-economy'

Birch, Kean and Levidow, Les and Papaioannou, Theo (2010) Sustainable capital? The neoliberalization of nature and knowledge in the European 'knowledge-based bio-economy'. Sustainability, 2 (9). pp. 2898-2918. ISSN 2071-1050

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Abstract

As an EU policy agenda, the knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE) emphasizes bio-technoscience as the means to reconcile environmental and economic sustainability. This frames the sustainability problem as an inefficiency to be overcome through a techno-knowledge fix. Here ecological sustainability means a benign eco-efficient productivity using resources which are renewable, reproducible and therefore sustainable. The KBBE narrative has been elaborated by European Technology Platforms in the agri-food-forestry-biofuels sectors, whose proposals shape research priorities. These inform policy agendas for the neoliberalization of both nature and knowledge, especially through intellectual property. In these ways, the KBBE can be understood as a new political-economic strategy for sustainable capital. This strategy invests great expectations for unlocking the productive potential of natural resources through a techno-knowledge fix. Although eco-efficiency is sometimes equated with biological productivity, commercial success will be dependent upon new combinations of ―living‖ and ―dead‖ labour.