Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 69–82 | Cite as

A case for a duty to feed the hungry: GM plants and the third world

  • Lucy CarterEmail author
Original Paper


This article is concerned with a discussion of the plausibility of the claim that GM technology has the potential to provide the hungry with sufficient food for subsistence. Following a brief outline of the potential applications of GM in this context, a history of the green revolution and its impact will be discussed in relation to the current developing world agriculture situation. Following a contemporary analysis of malnutrition, the claim that GM technology has the potential to provide the hungry with sufficient nourishment will be discussed within the domain of moral philosophy to determine whether there exists a moral obligation to pursue this end if and only if the technology proves to be relatively safe and effective. By using Peter Singer’s duty of moral rescue, I argue that we have a moral duty to assist the third world through the distribution of such GM plants. I conclude the paper by demonstrating that my argument can be supported by applying a version of the Precautionary Principle on the grounds that doing nothing might be worse for the current situation.


Genetically modified food Duty of rescue Malnutrition Green revolution Precautionary principle 



The author wishes to thank Professors Wayne Hall and William Grey for their contribution to earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of History, Philosophy, Religion and ClassicsThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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