Fuel Pump Nozzle

Fuel The Rich Or Feed The Poor

Group 73

Genetically Modified (GM) crops have shown to provide a new path for farmers by allowing selection of the desired characteristics for their crop. This selective ability has been used to allow crops to grow in much harsher environments or to produce crops that yield more of the key component for biofuels. Production of biofuel GM crops reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also reduces the availability of food and thus increases food prices. Should engineers focus GM design on fuel or food?

Keep the lights on

Within the developing world, in countries such as India, many regions are not covered by the electrical grid or the electricity supply is very unreliable. The shortage of electricity greatly affects economic activities and also the daily lives of inhabitants with notable implications upon the provision of water.

Through the use of GM, biofuels have become an increasingly prevalent and reliable energy source, providing aid and relief to areas where energy shortages are a prominent issue. GM technology enables the production of corns rich in starch which help to generate ethanol and soybeans which are optimised for the generation of biodiesel through its vegetable oil derivative. The efficiency of the biofuels associated with the aforementioned processes is greatly increased, which goes some way in aiding the reduction in the disparity between the power demand and the power supply.

It should be noted that within these areas, the widespread nature of the power shortage supersedes the issues relating to the availability of food in terms of the numbers of those affected. The argument therefore that positively impacting the lives of the greater community, through the improved provision of energy, is one which holds notable significance within a utilitarianism type concept.Fuel Pump Nozzle

Moving this concept into the other side of the argument, the various downsides of GM crops for the wider public when not used for fuel should also be considered.

There is an increasing trend in the use of pesticide and herbicides upon GM crops due to the rise of super resistant strains of weeds. Superweed, for example, has developed a high resistance to many different types of herbicide through its own natural selection.

The current solution implemented in the removal of strains like superweed is to spray increasingly toxic and dangerous types of herbicide upon the crops in order to maintain the high production rate so closely associated with GM crops.

Research indicates that there are serious health risks associated with GM food on animals. It implies that there is a potential threat in eating food produced by GM crops. Intuitively, this is potentially an issue which can be negated through the use of GM crops for biofuel instead of food, thereby removing the potential risk completely while gaining the benefit of GM technology.

Are we running out of thyme?

While the world is in need of new sources for providing energy, there are many alternatives to the use of agricultural land. A greater issue facing the world today is current food poverty rates, with one in nine people suffering from chronic undernourishment, and the ever growing population creating more of a demand for food.

For farmers, the benefit of utilising GM crops for food crops over fuel is the added reliability for future. Biofuels are not going to be a long-lasting need of society, every generation alternatives to meet society’s needs are discovered. However, food is a biological necessity for every living person on this earth, so the market will always be there. As well as the farmers themselves, GM food crops would greatly aid in conquering the food crisis, allowing the poor and hungry to have vastly more access to food. Furthermore, a wider availability and location range of food sources will not only reduce prices for average consumers but also drive up profits for food producers, whereas an increase in GM crops grown for fuel would have the opposite effect.

Utilitarianism suggests that “the proper course of action is the one that brings the greatest pleasure to the greatest number”. This principal can be used in this case, as greater control over food crop production has the potential to benefit a vast amount of people, whereas using this land for fuel production only takes away this potential and would provide pleasure to fewer, richer people.Can I Have Some Food

Though some may say the initial capital outlay of GM crops grown for food is not outweighed by the increased yield, it has been shown that farmers can benefit from $4-105/hectare after deduction of the initial cost. The consequence of crops for fuel rather than food is large enough that the EU implemented, at the start of 2012, an updated policy restricting the use of biofuels that were grown on land that could have been used to grow food. With engineers assistance into the advancement of GM technologies and understanding, this food-viable land will only continue to grow. In addition, Millers have said that if the new biofuel crop cross-contaminates with corn intended for food it could lead to soggy cereal and bread.

It may be said that engineers have a responsibility to focus GM technology towards providing more food availability and to reduce distance covered by foods in transportation. This would reduce the need for GHG emissions in transport and allowing GM crops to be grown in harsher conditions which is often where poverty and low food availability lies. Funds for fuel should be put towards renewable energies such as wind and solar, rather than on fuel crops grown on land previously used for food. Farmers are obviously finding GM crops for fuel appealing because of higher profit/yield potential, so engineers should aim to provide them with the ability to grow similar profitability from GM crops for food.

Further Remarks

So, what are your thoughts? Should resources be put towards developing crops for fuel to tackle the fossil fuel issue and ever growing fuel demand, or to provide food in harsh areas of poverty?

64 thoughts on “Fuel The Rich Or Feed The Poor

  1. Really well concluded at the end and I like the recommendations you made, but is this something that can be generalised on a global scale? I think decisions on food vs fuel is something that varies hugely from country to country and though engineering/research of GM is more global there will naturally be different demands in different areas. Thus market will remain for both until, as you say, renewables become more viable than biofuels.

    1. Thank you for your comment, an interesting point about the variability of such issues on a global scale! I agree, issues regarding energy shortages are certainly likely to be more prevalent in the developing world and perhaps this is a debate with a different outcome in different countries. Although, even if renewables superseded biofuels, would they be available on a global scale? Or would we be left with a similar issue to the one highlighted by yourself?

  2. Burning biofuels results in the generation of carbon dioxide, although an argument can be made that it is a carbon neutral process. Actually, it’s also fair to note that the consumption of food leads to the generation of methane, which is more severe than CO2.

    The issue is one of compulsion. Are farmers being compelled to grow crops for bio-fuels? It’s possible that as a cash crop the compulsion isn’t legal but financial. The switch to fuel crops instead of food crops could also result in increased food prices. (Hmm, I wonder if it’s worth looking at whether grain used to feed cows in the US could be used to feed humans instead. This may give you more information.)

    I wonder if the issue here is do we tell farmers what to grow and how best to use their land and determine their incomes/livelihoods or should we let the market decide.

    I hope my comment is useful, I feel I’ve gone off on a tangent.

    1. Thank you very much for the comment!! That is very true that the consumption of food leads to the generation of methane, however this is a biological necessity.

      Yes I agree, I believe that due to bio-fuels being a cash crop, farmers may be pushed to grow them as large companies will pay a lot for them. After research I have found that a lot of the contents of feed for livestock is made from products such as soy that can feed humans. This is a very interesting point that could be looked into further.

      Your comment was very useful, thanks again.

  3. Great article! I believe that main priority for the use of GM crops lies with food production, however the use of GM crops for biofuel shouldn’t be neglected as it is an excellent alternative to fossil fuels.

    1. Thanks for your comment! While biofuels appear a great alternative to fossil fuels they are not without any negative repercussions, as a previous comment outlines, they do in fact still produce carbon dioxide upon use, so perhaps a focus on renewables should take greater precedence while we currently focus on using GM crops for food?

  4. I think the effects of GM crops on surrounding ecosystems need to be considered further. Its mentioned that there are health risks associated with using pesticides on GM crops for food, and a solution would be to use them for fuel instead. However using GM crops for food would still have negative impacts on the environment. For example, if the pesticides were to enter surrounding water sources (such as rivers), they could potentially contaminate human drinking water and kill food sources such as fish, possibly contributing to undernourishment.

    In my opinion, the issue needs to be addressed locally as each country has very different demands (economically and demographically). Overall a really well discussed article!

    1. Thanks for your comment! An interesting point indeed, the wider impact of the use of GM crops in both contexts should be explored in order to develop arguments with greater validity. I guess a number of negatives could be explored on both sides and I agree this appears to be an issue with not much continuity on a macro scale, but what would your thoughts be on the use of GM crops for food or fuel within the EU for example?

  5. As its been said it previous comments, such problems are difficult to generalise on a global scale but I feel the main focus of the future of GM crops lie in the restriction of land use for fuels that could otherwise be used for food and the focus on the development and research into the manufacture of food crops that can survive in the harsher environments, which is often the exact reason why these areas are starved of resources in the first place. Great article!

    1. Thanks for your comment! While I think a good point is raised here in restricting land use for fuels so we can focus on the manufacture of food in harsher climates, surely in putting more pressure upon food production this is more likely to give rise to new technologies out of necessity? Although this could of course be considered a dangerous plan as the current production of food is likely to suffer, but it would be interesting to hear your thoughts?

  6. The crops as food is the basic demand for people, and generating fuel from GM crops is less competitive to fossil fuel, so I tend to support feeding people

    1. Thanks for your comments! While the generation of biofuels from GM crops may not be an issue at the forefront of the energy market, with growing concerns about the finite nature of fossils fuels, surely this issue could take greater precedence in the future? Under the utilitarianism concept implemented into this article one would concur that feeding the people would be a greater issue, at least currently anyway, but under the same concept it could be argued that providing sustainable fuel will be for the greater good?

  7. This is a highly thought-provoking article. My media reaction was concern for food for local people. But I also appreciate that currently bi”ofuels are more viable than renewables and economic case for replacing food crops strong. I would anticipate that this Will depend upon, and vary from country to country. If this study were extended to explore that variation, I would be really interested to see it include consideration of the impact on the local “ecosystems and wider global ecological issues”

    1. Thanks for your comments! This would appear to be a concurrent view amongst the comments we have received thus far, variability, on a macro scale, is likely to yield answers with greater weighting. I feel your second point is a particularly useful, and perhaps within this realms of our article we did not fully explore potential wider ecological issues with things instead focusing upon moral points of view.

  8. I agree with the previous comments, I don’t think this can be generalised on a global scale and should be addressed locally. However, the world’s population is growing faster than ever before and the amount of arable land is decreasing so I think we should be concentrating on feeding people rather than using the land for biofuels.
    There is some interesting reserch being done on engineering C4 photosynthesis into C3 crops to increase yields – just wondering if you have looked into this at all?
    Overall a great article, it was a pleasure to read!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree the variable nature of this issue on a macro scale is one which requires some thought. With regards to your second point, while this topic was not extensively researched, I believe there are a number of challenges associated with placing C4 photosynthesis into C3 leaves/crops, particularly with some food crops like rice. Research suggests that there is an inherent incompatibility for this technology within some of these crops so maybe this is not a miracle solution but nonetheless an interesting point.

  9. I think providing food for people is a priority. Money should be used to develop other forms of renewable energy and leave agricultural land for food production. Great read, well done.

    1. Thanks for your comment. While from a moral stance it would seem obvious to simply use GM technology for feeding people due its perceived ‘direct’ impact upon lives, it should perhaps be considered that an abundance of fuel could drive the generation of technologies would could in fact simplify the food production process.

  10. A thought-provoking article. Without sitting on the fence, it could be argues that this is not an ‘either/or’ question. Despite the global context of this challenging issue, much of the debate prompts further questions at a local level and the need to look beyond the inevitable generalisations. For example, the term ‘land for food production’ needs to take account of the variety of land types with specific management needed for specific ‘food production’. Some of this land may be unsuitable and better exploited for non-food uses. Much of the global GM food debate has also centred on the greatest commercial opportunities exploited by the seed companies, e.g. herbicide-resistant soybean etc. This has polarised public opinion and weakened debate on other (and undoubtedly less profitable) opportunities which may offer solutions for more local problems; particularly those which reduce, rather than increase pesticide interventions.

  11. Interesting and insightful article!

    My initial thoughts were that surely engineers should be putting their time and effort into developing crops to feed the ever growing population, rather than developing crops to sell for biofuels with higher profit margins. However, surely these separate demands require very different development approaches, and again supports the argument for different demands in different setting rather than one answer fits all.

    As mentioned, efforts into the ability to grow crops for human consumption in harsher environments, where there is usually higher incidence or poverty and malnourishment, countries in which often have higher population growth rate, is I believe essential.
    Despite this, are there any health risks associated with nutrition based on GM crops?

    Finally, where should engineers put their focus into fuel development? I agree that this lies within the development of renewable energy sources, with much lower rates of carbon emissions. Yes food consumption releases methane, but this life process can’t (yet) be altered, and efforts reduce GHG emissions elsewhere would be more ethical.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes i agree that a solution more tailored to the local area would be very good. And research has shown that there may be potential health risks due to the pesticides currently used. This definitely needs further research to understand the health risks and try to combat them.

  12. I agree that being able to feed the population satisfactorily is hugely important and emphasis on how to improve productivity of crops should continue to be researched.

    However I also agree and believe that it is very important to continue to improve knowledge and development into renewable forms of energy. Therefore I think that we should continue to research into biofuels but with particular focus on second generation biofuels which are produced from non food feedstocks. These include: wood, non edible crops, organic waste, food crop waste etc. One of the main benefits of these are that they do not require highly profitable and productive farm land unlike first generation biofuels, therefore they are not directly competing with the land for food crops. They can be grown on less productive land, require less fertile soils and can survive harsher environments (they are also a more renewable source than planting first generation crops such as rape seed oil). The improvement and increased use in use of second generation biofuels could more fully utilise our land that is currently not able to be utilised for food crops and reduce the competition between food or fuels when it comes to biofuels.
    This would leave land available for food crops which could be engineering to increase productivity and yield as mentioned in the article. I think further research into these biofuels and other forms of renewable energy is really important for our future sustainability and should continue to be developed and explored.
    We could even go further and look into third generation biofuels such as cultivating algae as a biofuel feedstock?

    1. Thanks for the comment, some really interesting points! That’s a very good idea regarding further research into biofuels which are produced from non food feedstock, and especially from food waste, as this kind of kills two birds with one stone. Research into 3rd generation biofuels also a very interesting topic, thank you.

  13. Well argued. I imagine ultimately there will have to be a balance, I don’t believe it is necessary to chose one or the other. I think both branches of the science should be pursued as they both make a positive contribution to the world.

    Regulation also becomes a big issue and is unlikely to be consistent across the globe. Farmers would perhaps be allocated maximum quotas for growing crops for bio-fuels with the stipulation that a minimum of x% of their crop should be grown for food.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I think this is a valid point and to an extent a novel suggestion. Often things appear very black and white but perhaps a grey area or indeed a mix of both of the aforementioned applications could prove useful. I believe your second point is also valid, looking at the EU for example where a number of regulatory measures are imposed to ensure minimum sales and price regulation, it remains to be seen whether similar sanctions could be imposed upon GM crops but I would suggest this is likely and so should be a future consideration for sure!

  14. There seem to be two questions raised by this article:
    1. Should we be using GM crops, for either food or fuel?
    2. Should to let viable food production areas be turned over to bio-fuel production?

    My feeling is that the second is easier to answer. That food production should trump fuel production, for reasons stated in the article.

    GM, allied to profit incentive muddies the waters in the real world, where farmers, understandably, wish to maximise their returns. If the engineers are making it easy for farmers to turn to bio-fuel production, then maybe they need to examine their conscience, and ensure GM food is safe, and that food production is more profitable.

    BTW we have been genetically modifying crops for hundreds/thousands of years, just not in a laboratory.

    1. Thank you for your input! It seems to be a common theme that the answer to your second statement is easier to answer than that of the first. The idea of the variation in profit between the two options certainly does make the issue much more difficult to answer. If, on a macro-ethical scale, we were to focus on state consequentialism could we end hunger through an increase in the financial security of those in poorer areas?

  15. I enjoyed the article. I think GM crops have the potential to help those who do not have enough to eat – golden rice which is GM modified to have high levels of vitamin A could prevent blindness and susceptibility to infections in many undernourished children. The problem is that big companies have tended to push farmers towards GM monoculture and cash crops which doesn’t help the local populations and creates a negative attitude to GM. Whilst people are starving surely we must feed the poor rather than grow fuel!

    1. Thank you for the feedback and your input! An interesting perspective on GM crops being used to help not just those that are hungry but those with nutritional deficits as well. It is definitely clear the big companies appear to have taken to welfarism and have aimed to produce as much ‘value’ from their crops in terms of the economy. The negative stigma faced by GM crops is one that will only get worse if we continue development of fuel crops, as people will start to believe they are being fed diesel!

  16. An interesting and thought provoking article which is well written. As is the case with many ethical issues the answer is rarely black and whit, and that is the case here.
    Reducing the burning of fossil fuels is an imperative and if GM can help
    produce energy efficient biofuels which can fill the gap, then that needs to be encouraged.
    This cannot be left to market forces however as if found to be profitable then the major multinational companies will exploit any available land that could be used to grow food. It would need to be highly regulated which would be difficult.
    Essentially the global population needs to be fed and so research into GM should be directed towards food production so that the increasing divergence between rich and poor can be slowed down and ultimately reversed, and that famines of biblical proportions should aim to be a thing of the past.

    1. Thanks for your arguments! Reducing emissions is definitely a global issue that needs to be resolved, urgently. But energy sources can be argued to come from other sources, not necessarily the burning of fuel; nutrition for humans cannot, we need food.

      Your comment about market forces is interesting. If we were able to assume that all our fellow (wo)men followed an attitude of stoicism then this may not have to be worried about. But we cannot assume this, so as you say it must be regulated.

  17. Interesting article! The question you ask is difficult to answer. We do need alternative forms of fuel but at the same time we need to be providing food for the growing population especially in developing countries. We don’t seem to know enough about the health effects of GM crops on health and as you pointed out, they can be a health risk due to the use of pesticides on food crops. I think more research is needed before we can properly answer this question.

    1. Thank you for commenting! It is a difficult question, and not one we believe has a definitive answer. As you say, it needs to be a very careful balancing act between maintaining a planet for us to live on, and providing food for everyone who lives on it. The unknown health effect appears to be a repeating factor in the uncertainty of this decision, so should efforts be made by engineers to determine these effects and control? From a microethical standpoint one might argue yes as this reduces the chances of such crops bringing harm to human life, but an ecological ethicist might say no as we only understand the effect on humans but not on the natural life surrounding these crops.

  18. I wonder if focussing efforts on food rather than lower emissions fuel sources could lead to an increase in the amount of harsh environments. This may argue that both directions can cause a decrease in the food supply. So should efforts be focussed on renewable fuels so food can be transported to locations of poverty.

    But this can be counter-argued by the fact that money would be necessary to transport the food to these locations. And there are other options for alternative energy, but there is no other option for food!

    1. Thanks for the comment! That’s an interesting perspective that focussing on food could increase the amount of harsh environments. I believe that if the land were to be managed well and farmed sustainably then this wouldn’t happen. However with poor land management this could happen. There are so many variables that influence the decision, and a chain reaction from whatever decision were to be made. As you mentioned I think focussing on other renewables fuels would be very beneficial. Also, If crops could be grown locally around the world, and were sourced locally, GHG emissions would decrease massively and there would be much less need to transport food.

  19. Interesting perspectives. I think that population control and managing consumerism would ease the pressure on both the demand for fuel and food.

    1. Thank you for the input! I think you’re completely right. With an increasing population and an ever growing consumerist mindset, the demand for natural resources is just going to be too high and unsustainable. However, there are many other ethical issues in terms of population control that would have to be considered. Does China’s one child policy work? Or would a Thanos approach be more suitable?

  20. Very interesting discussion. At this point in time it is difficult to say as we do not know the full extend of the implications and opportunities. Fuel is definitely where the focus should lie as this planet needs to find a successful alternative. Without a heavy focus in these areas how can that happen.

    1. Thank you for your comment! It’s interesting to hear somebody who agrees with the focus of GM crops on biofuels rather than for food, as it appears that most are siding with food for now. It seems that you believe the option that provides the benefit for most people is alternative fuels, which would lend itself to a utilitarianism approach to solving this problem.

  21. Being involved in the food industry myself, I believe the main advantage of GM crops is the ability to help alleviate world hunger. I strongly agree with how engineers should aim to provide the farmers with the ability to grow profitable GM crops for food. However, with the potential risks such as, herbicide-resistant weeds developing, I feel the development needs to be monitored carefully.

    1. Thank you for your input! It’s good to here the opinion from someone who is involved directly with the industry this is aimed at. Hopefully with GM crops where more is known and understood, more can also be done to combat such issues as you mentioned.

  22. I gather that with the GM crops, we are still very much dealing with an unknown in terms of its potential negative implications upon humans… Perhaps extended research into this area would yield an answer to this question?

  23. Yes a large issue with this whole topic is not knowing what the future holds for each side of the argument. Are we going to end up with crops that can feed 1000 people when grown on the size of a desk? Or will GM crops be the kindling that starts the next great famine (a la Interstellar)? So maybe as engineers our ethical standpoint should take into account this uncertain future and hope for the best but expect the worst?

  24. An interesting choice of subject matter.
    The distaste towards GM crops is understandable from a comfortable position where choice is a concern but survival is a given.
    Genetic modification has always happened whether completely naturally where we call it evolution, or assisted to provide a better end result like a Crufts winner.
    It’s just that now we can do it better, bigger and faster.
    Any talk of Frankenstein foods is a luxury for those who know of Mary Shelley and Gothic horror but not for those who know only the real horror of hunger and death.
    Yet we say burn the crops, make heat, light and movement from them, that is so much better than dumping on those less fortunate. How dare we expect them to eat this crap when we would not, that would be so patronising.

    But we aren’t hungry. If we can feed the world, we must do that first.

  25. Interesting article. You mention energy shortages in the developing world, in places such as India, surely issues surrounding food shortages also exist in these areas? On the whole I feel this argument is tipped towards the use of GM crops in the production of food rather than fuel. I think the focus of future research should focus upon reliable renewables as opposed to biofuels which I believe have proven to be not so environmentally friendly as they may seem….or could the author provide a contrasting view? Would be interesting to hear

  26. I gather this was written from an engineering point of view with some interesting ethical concepts thrown in for good measure. I like the use of the utilitarianism concept within this article but I feel this concept could be applied to both arguments with a bit of give and take. On the whole, from my point of view, I believe that issues regarding world hunger cannot be overlooked and perhaps that should be our priority?

    Would be interesting to see how the arguments balance when viewed from an entirely economical perspective as after all this world is fueled by cash not crops…

  27. I think GM crops should be developed that thrive without the use of pesticides whether they are being grown for food or fuel. The crops should be grown and used locally within countries/ regions for the benefit of the local people and not for big companies. If this principle is followed then a balance of requirement between food and fuel can be developed according to the local need. As renewable energy technology becomes more available then a gradual switch to more food production can be made.

    1. Thanks for the comments, yes I completely agree! GM food crops definitely need to be made with less pesticides, maybe Engineers should be focussing on this more. This would then negate any health issues. Again I agree that the crops should be grown locally.

  28. The Thanos solution to population growth seems a bit drastic, and there is no easy way to solve this, so we do need ways of feeding a growing population. We have been modifying plants and animals for hundreds of years by selective breeding and I am not sure GM is very different. Although in theory using crops for fuel may help poorer areas of the world in practice I bet most ends up in cars in richer countries!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes I think the Thanos approach is definitely a bit drastic haha. That’s very true. Yes there are a lot of potential benefits for GM crops for fuel and they could significantly increase quality of life, however as you said, I can’t help but feel it would benefit the rich more.

  29. The ethical debate on what GM crops should be used for is a difficult one. With people becoming ever more conscious of their emissions and with businesses starting to think green I can only see the use of bio-fuels increasing. On the other hand, the population of the earth is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, increasing the amount of food that is needed greatly. Either way I think the development of GM crops will be very important going forward, especially if we can produce crops that are resistant to harsher conditions, increasing the amount of land that can be farmed and reducing the impact of bad weather such as droughts.

    Although the possibilities of GM crops seem exciting for an engineer, it is important to remain aware and properly study the potential negative impacts of using GM crops.

    1. Thanks for the comment, lots of very good point! Yeah I think there’s a lot of potential with GM crops and it will be interesting to see where Engineers take it in the future.

  30. Surely a big percentage of resources should be put towards developing crops to provide food in harsh areas of poverty rather than for fuel to tackle the fossil fuel issue and ever growing fuel demand.

    If people do not have the food to survive then fuel will be of little issue, food is what we need to sustain life whereas fuel whilst being a necessity to the modern world certainly isn’t something we should pick over life sustaining food.

    1. Thanks for the comment. A very valid point! It could be argued that with access to fuel and therefore energy, areas of poverty could develop their infrastructure and potentially get more out of what food and crops are available.

  31. An interesting article with many good points relating to the balance between the use of GM crops for food or fuel.

    My main comment would be that should we be using GM crops on a large scale at all until we are more aware of the long terms risks? The article and other comments have mentioned the health risks to humans and animals if we use them for food. However, could there be wider ecological effects, for example if superweeds become more prevalent could that endanger other crops?

    Obviously we have always modified crops and livestock to suit our needs, but the rate of change always depended on natural limits, for example the time taken to breed animals and plants. Also any ‘modifications’ were again essentially limited to mutations that arose naturally. I think with this technology we increase the risk of unintended consequences as we can create crops far outside what could be considered ‘natural’.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes a very good point, perhaps a lot more research and development needs to go into understanding the potential impacts of the crops.

  32. Interesting debate. I personally believe that the need for food outweighs the need for fuel but in areas of harsh poverty there is often a greater need for a supply of clean drinking water which could then push the argument toward a greater need for biofuels to provide the energy required to provide this.
    Also there is too little knowledge as yet about the long term effects of eating GM crops. With a growing world population,however, we must consider how best to use the available agricultural land to ‘feed the world’.

    1. Thanks for the comment! That’s a really good point that we hadn’t considered, perhaps a better energy supply could provide clean drinking water which would outweigh the benefits of more food. From a utilitarian perspective, maybe clean drinking water would benefit more people than a better food supply to some areas.

  33. I think this is an interesting debate, with valid points on both sides. Whatever side you fall on would depends on the country for which this is being discussed, and what needs are the most important for the people there. We must also be wary of the long lasting effects of GM crops, as little research can be done into this yet

  34. Wonderfully insightful and I agree, although it is not only up to engineers, but policy makers to ensure there are policies set in place to govern the end-use of GM crops and society at large to create the necessary social pressures to send us towards a greener future.

    1. Thanks for the comment, yes that’s true. We have very much looked at the argument from an Engineers perspective but there are definitely other stakeholders in the decision making process.

  35. Interesting article. For the reasons you give above I think that the main priority for use of land should be in providing food, although using GM crops for biofuel should not be ruled out. I think that the issue of compulsion that others have commented on is also a very important one to consider. I feel that there may be different answers for different countries at different times.

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