Over the past decade, sustainable development has become a pivotal element of innovation in various areas. Industrial biotechnology - through its potential to reform our energy resources - is of specific interest given its controversial reception. With the ongoing shift from a fossil-fuel-based to a bio-based economy, the demand for biomass production for biofuels and biomaterials has increased dramatically. Although countries such as the USA may have enough land-surface available, it is not likely that the necessary biomass to 'fuel' Europe can be grown domestically. Europe must look elsewhere for its biomass needs and Africa is one of the more likely candidates. A large percentage of African arable land is currently not in use for agriculture. Moreover, the production potential of developing countries near to the equator is significantly higher than that of countries in more temperate climates such as most of Europe. An increasing number of parties are showing interest in growing biomass in Africa, which may result in harm as well as benefit for these regions. Europe is not alone in turning towards equatorial regions. China for example, is a very important stakeholder currently investing in African land. Regarding the issue of competition or cooperation, the enterprise carries enormous responsibility and requires attention to be paid to a range of local and global social, economic and ethical considerations, as well as the elucidation of a clear view of what success for all parties will require from this multifaceted effort.
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