Scientific society forms to inform policy debate

By Susanne Retka Schill
Posted May 26, 2009, at 10:53 a.m. CST

The Global Biorenewables Research Society (GBR Society) was launched May 20 by scientists from eight countries, aiming to become the independent standard for science-based knowledge for sustainable biorenewables. "This effort will be of great value to policymakers who will be facing a world transitioning from nonsustainable technologies to biobased economies," said the chair of the new society Luuk van der Wielen from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Manuel Heitor, Portugal's Secretary of State for Science, Technology and Higher Education, stressed that governments as well as the international debate, would greatly benefit from the input of sound scientific knowledge provided by the GBR Society.

The founding members are international research leaders from diverse disciplines including agriculture, biology, economics and engineering. They will provide scientific assessments on environmental, social and economic challenges that increasing demand for biomass will bring. Importantly, the society will explore opportunities for rural development, better management of agriculture, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Priorities also include enhancing interactive communication between scientists, policymakers and the general public, as well as facilitating an educational network for international exchange of students and scientific staff. The GBR Society will be feeding into this year's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

"Our ecosystems are under pressure by increasing demands for food, feed, fiber and fuel," Van der Wielen said. "Implementation of a biobased economy will significantly impact our society, as the increasing demand for biomass requires sustainable production, responsible use and equitable sharing of the resources and products. Energy security and climate change mitigation, rural development, sustainable land use will depend upon rigorous debate supported by the best available fact-based information."

The GBR Society is the outgrowth of two roundtable discussions held in the U.S. last year. Scientists in the discussions were proposing to form a group that would function much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose comments on climate change are considered authoritative, partly because of the breadth and inclusiveness of the scientists involved in the process.

The founding partners of the GBR Society are scientists from the following leading international biorenewable centers: B-Basic (Netherlands), Energy Biosciences Institute (USA), Kluyver Centre (Netherlands), Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering (Portugal), Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of S�o Paulo (Brazil), University of Queensland (Australia), Porter Alliance (United Kingdom), University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), Copernicus Institute of Utrecht University (Netherlands), Catholic University of Valpara�so (Chile), Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (India) and University of York (United Kingdom). Membership will be open to other scientists from public research institutes.