Smart use of renewable resources 'can revitalise' deprived rural areas

 

Deprived rural areas could be invigorated and jobs created if the bio-economy was properly exploited, EU commissioner for research, innovation and science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said yesterday.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said the bio-economy – based on the smart use of renewable resources from the land and sea – was worth €2 trillion and provided 22 million jobs in EU member states.

“Small rural communities in Ireland can’t even put a local football team together because everyone has emigrated . . . but this is a policy that can reinvigorate those communities,” she said. “I think we have a job to do to explain that to the public.”

She said member states must seize the opportunities offered by the transition to a post-petroleum economy, as “it will be good for our environment, our food and energy security and for Europe’s competitiveness in the future.”

Measure the impact

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was speaking at a bio-economy conference in Dublin organised by the Irish EU presidency. Earlier she announced the setting up of an observatory to map progress and measure the impact of the development of the bio-economy in Europe.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the Irish agri-food sector had “enormous potential”.

The demand for our produce was “almost infinite . . . we need to find a way of realising that potential”.

Not as successful

He said “much, much more” needed to be done to develop our marine resources. “And we in Ireland have not been as successful as other European countries in terms of our afforestation programmes and our forest cover generally.”

Prof Patrick Wall, associate professor of public health at UCD, said the horse meat scandal had highlighted the need for people in food production to think of themselves as being in the human health business.