In view of the increasing depletion of fossil fuel resources, the concept “bioeconomy” aims at the gradual replacement of fossil fuels by renewable feedstock. Seen as a comprehensive societal transition, the bioeconomy is a complex field that includes a variety of sectors, actors, and interests and is related to far-reaching changes in today’s production systems. While the objectives pursued—such as reducing dependence on fossil fuels, mitigating climate change, ensuring global food security, and increasing the industrial use of biogenic resources—are not generally contentious, there is fierce controversy over the possible pathways for achieving these objectives. Based on a thorough literature review, the article identifies major lines of conflict in the current discourse. Criticism of the prevalent concept refers mainly to the strong focus on technology, the lack of consideration given to alternative implementation pathways, the insufficient differentiation of underlying sustainability requirements, and the inadequate participation of societal stakeholders. Since today it cannot be predicted which pathway will be the most expedient—the one already being taken or one of the others proposed—this paper suggests pursuing a strategy of diversity concerning the approaches to shape the bioeconomy, the funding of research topics, and the involvement of stakeholders.
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