Skip to main content

Uncovering a New Moral Dilemma of Economic Optimization in Biotechnological Processing

Abstract

The trend of emerging biorefineries is to process the harvest as efficiently as possible and without any waste. From the most valuable phytomass, refined medicines, enzymes, dyes and other special reactants are created. Functional foods, food ingredients, oils, alcohol, solvents, plastics, fillers and a wide variety of other chemical products follow. After being treated with nutrient recovery techniques (for fertilizer production), biofuels or soil improvers are produced from the leftovers. Economic optimization algorithms have confirmed that such complex biorefineries can be financially viable only when a high degree of feedstock concentration is included. Because the plant material is extremely voluminous before processing, the farming intensity of special plants increases in the nearest vicinity of agglomerations where the biorefineries are built for logistical reasons. Interdisciplinary analyses revealed that these optimization measures lead to significantly increased pollen levels in neighbouring urban areas and subsequently an increased risk of allergies, respectively costs to the national health system. A new moral dilemma between the shareholder’s profit and public interest was uncovered and subjected to disputation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bartholow, A., Pleskovic, N., Drori, J., & Skoner, D. P. (2014). Review of the use of sublingual allergen immunotherapy in children. Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, 27(1), 3–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bikker, P., Krimpen, M. M., Wikselaar, P., Houweling-Tan, B., Scaccia, N., Hal, J. W., et al. (2016). Biorefinery of the green seaweed Ulva lactuca to produce animal feed, chemicals and biofuels. Journal of Applied Phycology, 28(6), 3511–3525.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boelt, B., & Studer, B. (2010). Breeding for grass seed yield. In B. Boller et al. (Eds.), Fodder crops and amenity grasses (pp. 161–174). New York, NY: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Castelli, D., Colin, L., Camel, E., & Ries, G. (1998). Pretreatment of skin with a Ginkgo biloba extract/sodium carboxymethyl-β-1, 3-glucan formulation appears to inhibit the elicitation of allergic contact dermatitis in man. Contact dermatitis, 38(3), 123–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cherubini, F. (2010). The biorefinery concept: Using biomass instead of oil for producing energy and chemicals. Energy Conversion and Management, 51(7), 1412–1421.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cherubini, F., & Ulgiati, S. (2010). Crop residues as raw materials for biorefinery systems—A LCA case study. Applied Energy, 87(1), 47–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ciprandi, G., & Fuchs, D. (2012). Tryptophan, neopterin, and nitrite in allergy. Allergy, 67(8), 1083.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D’amato, G., Cecchi, L., Bonini, S., Nunes, C., Annesi-Maesano, I., Behrendt, H., et al. (2007). Allergenic pollen and pollen allergy in Europe. Allergy, 62(9), 976–990.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eranki, P. L., Bals, B. D., & Dale, B. E. (2011). Advanced regional biomass processing depots: A key to the logistical challenges of the cellulosic biofuel industry. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, 5(6), 621–630.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • FitzPatrick, M., Champagne, P., Cunningham, M. F., & Whitney, R. A. (2010). A biorefinery processing perspective: Treatment of lignocellulosic materials for the production of value-added products. Bioresource Technology, 101(23), 8915–8922.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haban, M., Otepka, P., Kobida, L., & Habanova, M. (2009). Production and quality of milk thistle (Silybum marianum [L.] Gaertn.) cultivated in cultural conditions of warm agri-climatic macroregion. Horticultural Science, 36(2), 69–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haberl, H., Beringer, T., Bhattacharya, S. C., Erb, K. H., & Hoogwijk, M. (2010). The global technical potential of bio-energy in 2050 considering sustainability constraints. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2(5), 394–403.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huang, H. J., Ramaswamy, S., Tschirner, U. W., & Ramarao, B. V. (2008). A review of separation technologies in current and future biorefineries. Separation and Purification Technology, 62(1), 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kamm, B., & Kamm, M. (2004). Principles of biorefineries. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 64(2), 137–145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kim, N. C., Graf, T. N., Sparacino, C. M., Wani, M. C., & Wall, M. E. (2003). Complete isolation and characterization of silybins and isosilybins from milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 1(10), 1684–1689.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Makra, L., Juhász, M., Béczi, R., & Borsos, E. K. (2005). The history and impacts of airborne Ambrosia (Asteraceae) pollen in Hungary. Grana, 44(1), 57–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mardoyan, A., & Braun, P. (2015). Analysis of Czech subsidies for solid biofuels. International Journal of Green Energy, 12(4), 405–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J. (2012). Finding the optimal parameters for the steam explosion process of hay. Revista Técnica de la Facultad de Ingeniería. Universidad del Zulia, 35(2), 170–178.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J. (2013a). Removal of hardly fermentable ballast from the maize silage to accelerate biogas production. Industrial Crops and Products, 44, 253–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J. (2013b). Study on agriculture decision-makers behavior on sustainable energy utilization. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 26(3), 679–689.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J. (2014a). Significant breakthrough in biochar cost reduction. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, 16(8), 1821–1825.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J. (2014b). Economically oriented process optimization in waste management. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 21(12), 7400–7402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J. (2015). Economic analysis of the pressure shockwave disintegration process. International Journal of Green Energy, 12(12), 1232–1235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J., Hašková, S., Maroušková, A., Myšková, K., Vaníčková, R., Váchal, J., et al. (2015). Financial and biotechnological assessment of new oil extraction technology. Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects, 37(16), 1723–1728.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maroušek, J., Hašková, S., Zeman, R., Žák, J., Vaníčková, R., Maroušková, A., et al. (2016). Polemics on ethical aspects in the compost business. Science and Engineering Ethics, 22(2), 581–590.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mussgnug, J. H., Klassen, V., Schlüter, A., & Kruse, O. (2010). Microalgae as substrates for fermentative biogas production in a combined biorefinery concept. Journal of Biotechnology, 150(1), 51–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pin, J. M., Guigo, N., Mija, A., Vincent, L., Sbirrazzuoli, N., van der Waal, J. C., et al. (2014). Valorization of biorefinery side-stream products: Combination of humins with polyfurfuryl alcohol for composite elaboration. ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, 2(9), 2182–2190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ragauskas, A. J., Beckham, G. T., Biddy, M. J., Chandra, R., Chen, F., Davis, M. F., et al. (2014). Lignin valorization: Improving lignin processing in the biorefinery. Science, 344(6185), 1246843.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ratajová, A. (2014). Study on the dynamics of grass microgametophytes from urban vegetation. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 21(9), 6218–6220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sannigrahi, P., Pu, Y., & Ragauskas, A. (2010). Cellulosic biorefineries—Unleashing lignin opportunities. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2(5), 383–393.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, L., Cadman, A., & McMillan, I. (2006). Early history of Cainozoic Asteraceae along the Southern African west coast. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 142(1), 47–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shaik, Y. B., Castellani, M. L., Perrella, A., Conti, F., Salini, V., Tete, S., et al. (2005). Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation. Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, 20(3–4), 47–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino, L. K., Hartman, L. P., & Brown, M. (2000). Moral person and moral manager: How executives develop a reputation for ethical leadership. California Management Review, 42(4), 128–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vaid, M., & Katiyar, S. K. (2010). Molecular mechanisms of inhibition of photocarcinogenesis by silymarin, a phytochemical from milk thistle (Silybum marianum L. Gaertn.) (Review). International Journal of Oncology, 36(5), 1053–1060.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marek Vochozka.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vochozka, M., Stehel, V. & Maroušková, A. Uncovering a New Moral Dilemma of Economic Optimization in Biotechnological Processing. Sci Eng Ethics 24, 1331–1338 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9925-z

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9925-z

Keywords

  • Public health costs
  • Moral dilemma
  • Bioeconomy
  • Financial optimization
  • Logistics