ethical issues in food and agriculture pdf

Ethical Issues In Food And Agriculture Pdf

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Pocket K No. 18: Ethics and Agricultural Biotechnology

Many of the expressed concerns about food and agricultural biotechnology are described as "ethical. This White Paper provides a framework for understanding the force of these concerns and a summary overview of them, but it should not be interpreted as a substitute for actual public dialog on ethical concerns. Those who call for attention to ethical issues appeal to many diverse values. Their concerns can be classified into two broad categories. On the one hand, some see the very act of using genetic technology to raise ethical issues that would not apply to other applications of food and agricultural technology.

On the other hand, some believe that specific applications of biotechnology raise ethical issues that are not being adequately addressed, even if these issues may be raised in connection to other, more conventional types of agricultural technology, as well.

There are several types of concern noted by those who question whether the use of biotechnology may be intrinsically questionable. Genes and Essences. Longstanding religious and cultural traditions associate the idea of a particular "essence" with different species of living organisms, and specify an obligation for human beings to respect these essences. Some may associate the modern notion of genes with this traditional notion of essence.

Species Boundaries and Natural Kinds. The idea that there is a specified "order of nature" may involve the belief that the species of plants and animals we find around us represent natural kinds.

Some may fear that biotechnology disturbs this order and thereby violates absolute limits on what human beings are ethically permitted to do.

Religious Arguments. Many religious traditions prohibit acts that involve transpecies reproduction, or ban the consumption of some species groups for food, and the mixing of foods from different groups. Biotechnology may be interpreted as contrary to some of these religious traditions.

Emotional Repugnance. Cultural traditions dictate that some potentially consumable substances e. Western food systems currently respect the repugnance that people feel toward these substances as a sufficient ground for policies that help people avoid consuming them.

Some individuals may feel a similar repugnance toward bioengineered foods. General Technological Ethics. There are a number of ethical questions that can be raised with respect virtually any new food or agricultural technology. As they are raised in connection with biotechnology, these questions suggest the following types of ethical concern:.

Environmental Ethics. Technology raises environmental issues when there are environmental exposures that pose risk to humans, wildlife or to ecosystem integrity. It has been alleged that agricultural biotechnology may pose risks to wildlife in or near farm fields. There are also issues associated with the question of whether agricultural ecosystems can themselves to exhibit features of ecological integrity.

Food Safety. Many of the issues associated with the safety of eating bioengineered foods are technical, but the question of whether regulators should make this decision based on an assessment of the risks, or whether individual consumers should be placed in a position to make the choice themselves is an ethical one. Moral Status of Animals. If genetic engineering of livestock would compromise animal welfare, there are ethical questions that can be raised.

There are also ethical questions about whether it would be ethical to use biotechnology to make animals more tolerant of production settings that are currently regarded as inimical to animal welfare. Impact on Farming Communities. Some critics of agricultural biotechnology have alleged that it will contribute to farm bankruptcies and the depletion of farming population in rural communities. There has been a longstanding ethical debate as to whether technology or policy that has these effects on farming communities can be ethically justified in virtue of offsetting benefits in the form of efficient production and lower food prices.

The concern is particularly relevant to the impact of biotechnology in developing regions where many farm at the subsistence level. Shifting Power Relations. Related to the concern on farming communities, some have argued that biotechnology will help a few well-capitalized firms control decision making in agriculture including future research , and limit farmers' ability to choose from an array of production possibilities.

This concern is related to a general ethical concern with the distribution of economic power and wealth in democratic societies. Responses to These Issues. This section of the paper discusses several approaches that have been discussed as a possible response to these various ethical issues. Uncertainty and the Precautionary Principle. Many of these ethical issues involve uncertainty about the risks or outcomes associated with biotechnology. The Precautionary Principle has been suggested as the appropriate decision rule to utilize in response to such situations.

It suggests that decision makers should not permit technological innovations to go forward simply because alleged harms have not been proven to exist. However, it is not clear how the Precautionary Principle should be applied in the case of food and agricultural biotechnology.

Consent, Labels and Consumer Choice. Various proposals for labeling products of biotechnology have been discussed. On the one hand, these proposals are supported by an informed-consent approach to issues in food safety, and may be the most satisfactory response to concerns based on religious values, emotional repugnance and other intrinsic objections to biotechnology.

Labels might give individuals who have these concerns an opportunity of exit, to opt out of a food system that causes them anxiety or concern. On the other hand, labels may stigmatize bioengineered foods, and may not provide information that would be useful for consumers trying to make choices on the basis of nutrition and food safety. Methods in Applied Ethics. How do methods in ethics suggest a response to these concerns.

One approach suggests that common ethical principles can be applied to provide definitive answers to the questions raised above. A more promising approach suggests that only open public discussion of these issues can produce an adequate basis for responding to the questions that critics of biotechnology raise.

Trust and Public Confidence. As debates over food and agricultural biotechnology become politicized, with activist organizations opposing both industry and governmental spokespersons, there is a growing tendency for public discourse on biotechnology to reflect the strategic interests of industry and activists.

There is a grave risk that as science becomes deployed in these debates, scientists themselves will be come so tainted by the strategic character of debate that the public will begin to lose confidence in the objectivity and judgment of scientists. Scientific spokespersons thus have an ethical responsibility to develop a capacity to participate in ethically-charged public discussions of biotechnology without either denigrating the values of others by characterizing them as irrational, or presuming uncritically that their science-based perspectives are the ethically proper approach to take.

Conclusion : Ethical issues associated with food and agricultural biotechnology must be regarded as open-ended and in great need of more structured and serious dialog. The issues sketched in this White Paper are only an overview. Both specialists and members of the public should be encouraged to articulate their concerns, and to respond to the views of others in a considered and respectful manner. This paper provides a framework for understanding the range of ethical concerns and for appreciating the value judgments that underlie conflicting opinions on the ethical responsibilities associated with food and agricultural biotechnology.

The range of ethical concerns that have been or might be raised in connection with food and agricultural biotechnology displays considerable complexity. It is impossible to do full justice to this range in a paper of this length. The goal is rather to provide readers with a way of appreciating the multiple bases of ethical concern, and to sketch the types of argument that would be deployed in interpreting and developing each area of concern more fully. Three broad types of concern can be distinguished.

First, it is possible that the use of gene technology is itself the basis of concern, that there is something about the manipulation of living matter at the genetic level that is of ethical concern. Second, it is possible that gene technology is of ethical concern because it poses risks to animal, environmental and human interests, including not only individual health and safety, but also economic and social considerations.

One would expect that concerns in the first category would not arise in connection with conventional chemical, mechanical and breeding technologies used in food and agriculture, while concerns arising in the second category would be generally applicable. Finally, there are ethical concerns that relate less to the products or processes of food and agricultural biotechnology than to the social institutions that develop, promote and regulate these technologies.

It has been suggested that these institutions are suffering from a deficit of public trust. The final section of the paper discusses the ethical dimensions of this problem. Because other papers in the Industry Canada initiative will address environmental and food safety risk, as well as intellectual property, this paper does not include any technical, legal or regulatory discussion of these issues.

These issues are discussed solely in light of the ethical concerns that are raised in connection with them. The analysis and opinion expressed in this paper is solely the responsibility of the author.

The paper includes a summary of analysis published in the author's book, Food Biotechnology in Ethical Perspectiv e, and substantial discussion and interpretation of events and concerns that have come to light since that work was completed.

The term 'ethics' applies broadly to the normative bases for human action, for judgments about the acceptability, advisability and justifiability of practices, and for criteria of responsibility and justice.

Normative bases stipulate ideals, values or standards that ought to be reflected in human conduct, and may be distinguished from matters of fact that may also form a component of the basis for action or judgment in a particular case.

The term 'ethics' is itself open to conflicting interpretations. On the one hand, ethics deals with almost universally recognized norms that are both implicit within everyday social interaction and explicitly articulated in public sources such as legal or professional codes of practice, religious texts, folktales, literature and philosophy.

On the other hand, the ethical dimension of conduct and reflection is often characterized as inherently personal, introspective and inherently unsuited to public discourse. Given this range of interpretation, ethical concerns associated with food and agricultural biotechnology can be expected to comprise highly idiosyncratic personal reactions of individuals, identifiable traditions and values of particular social groups, and broadly shared social norms.

Although the number and kind of potential ethical concerns given this diversity is overwhelming, the need to coexist within society has established several key procedures for systematizing ethical values and coping with ethical diversity in pluralistic societies. Above all, pluralistic societies are tolerant of divergent individual values and idiosyncrasies, particularly when personal ethical values do not give rise to social conflict.

Citizens of pluralistic societies are seldom placed in the position of articulating personal values explicitly or of defending them publicly. As they are unpracticed in expressing ethical concerns, their statements of ethical concern are often broad or obscure.

For example, statements to the effect that food and agricultural biotechnology is unnatural convey a judgment of disapproval, but do little to articulate the basis for that judgment. In one sense, all of agriculture is an unnatural activity, but we should not infer that all of agriculture is therefore of ethical concern. Without further explanation it is difficult to understand how such a broad judgment of disapproval could be used to distinguish an ethically unacceptable practice from any other.

This paper develops a framework for interpreting such concerns with a greater degree of specificity, and for understanding how they might be applied in rendering a judgment, favorable or unfavorable, with respect to food and agricultural biotechnology. The framework of analysis being proposed in this paper reflects a particular way of interpreting ethics. Discourse ethics is a program in philosophy that prescribes a general approach for understanding ethical issues see Habermas, According to this program, when one is presented with an ethical objection to an opinion or course of action, one has a responsibility to ensure that one has first understood the force of that objection.

Second, one must either alter the opinion or course of action to accommodate the objection, or offer a response that explains why the objection has been rejected. This means that those who offer an ethical objection are owed a reply.

The reply should restate the objection in terms that the person who offered the original objection can accept. If the terms are not accepted, one must conclude that one has not understood the objection, and try again. If the reply to an objection involves a rejection of it, one owes the person who offered the objection an opportunity to make another reply, which of course may occasion further objections and replies.

Sustainable governance and management of food systems

Food and ethics intersect in everyday practices as well as in abstract inquiry. Buying a tomato in winter, refusing to consume animal products, participating in a community garden, or petitioning governments regarding agriculture subsidies serve as instances when food and ethics converge. Food ethics is an interdisciplinary field that provides ethical analysis and guidance for human conduct in the production, distribution, preparation and consumption of food. Over the past century, the production, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food have dramatically altered. Technological developments in agriculture, processing, manufacturing, and the domestic sphere have changed human interactions with food. Globalization, urbanization, and social and political developments in trade, public health, and patterns of consumption have modified the way food is used and thought about. In an attempt to navigate this complex landscape of technological and social relations pertaining to food, as well as the ethical questions they raise, we are turning more accurately, returning to food ethics.


On hunger and the right to food. Ethical issues arising from agrofuel production (​liquid biofuel used for transport). On intellectual property in food and agriculture.


Ethics of eating meat

Through the advancement of technology, scientists have been able to develop more precise and powerful tools to produce crops and animals with selected traits that aim to benefit farmers and consumers. Similar to other emerging technologies, biotechnology has instigated worldwide debate and confusion as a result of mixed messages from various people - be they scientists, academics, critics, industry, religious representatives or consumer bodies. The worldwide debate on the pros and cons of biotechnology have been likened to a battleground and a prominent place for virtually every ethical concern. It has stirred conflicting ideas and opinions and has polarized sectors not only among stakeholders but even between countries. While agriculture has long been a topic of philosophical, religious and political reflection, it is only in the late 20th century that systematic thinking about the values and norms associated with the food system, such as farming, food processing, distribution, trade, and consumption, began to be discussed in the context of agricultural ethics CAST,

Current methods of production of crops , like corn and soybeans, rely heavily on machinery. Thousands of acres can be planted, sprayed and harvested by just a few people operating large equipment like tractors and combines; the latest versions of which have built-in GPS and computers to analyze the field. But for raising and processing fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry , the agriculture industry still relies primarily on human labor. Farm and food workers are mainly an immigrant workforce, many of whom are undocumented.

The question of whether it is right to eat animal flesh is among the most prominent topics in food ethics. Ethical vegetarians and ethical vegans [5] may also object to the practices underlying the production of meat , or cite concerns about animal welfare , animal rights , environmental ethics , and religious reasons. In response, some proponents of meat-eating have adduced various scientific, cultural, and religious arguments in support of the practice.

Labor and Workers in the Food System

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Food and Agricultural Biotechnology: A Summary and Analysis of Ethical Concerns

Agriculture is among the earliest, most enduring, and most fundamental domains of technology. Although associated primarily with the cultivation of food crops such as wheat, maize, and rice, the term agriculture covers a wide variety of activities, including animal husbandry , dairy production, fiber production for example cotton, flax , fruit and wine production, and aquaculture, as well as the harvesting, storage, processing, and distribution of food and fiber commodities. Agriculture frequently is understood to include all forms of food, fiber, and subsistence production, including forestry and fishing, especially with respect to the organization of scientific research institutes and government regulatory agencies. In all cases agriculture is both deeply involved with technology and science and subject to technical reflection. What is the relationship between agriculture and technology? That question reflects the way agriculture has faded into the cultural background in contemporary life, as if foods naturally appeared on supermarket shelves without technological intervention.

Analysis of topics in biotechnology in agricultural production and food processing, intellectual and physical property rights in a market based economy, human nutrition problems, the treatment of animals and the environment, worker rights in a global food and apparel marketplace, and America's role in reducing world hunger and malnutrition. A Legacy of W. Athletics Visit Athletics Website. Archived PDF Catalogs.

Scholarly discourse about the values and norms associated with agriculture and the food system—farming, resource management, food processing, distribution, trade, and consumption—is referred to as agricultural ethics. This incorporates elements of philosophical analysis with concerns about particular issue areas that arise in connection with farm practices and the structure of the agri-food system. Over the past few decades, social science researchers and academics have applied ethical analysis to agricultural production and use of the natural environment. The Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society , for instance, was formed in to promote the study of values issues associated with the production, consumption, and distribution of food, fiber, and natural resources. The Society sponsors an annual conference and publishes a refereed quarterly journal, Agriculture and Human Values.

Technology and Science in Agriculture

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Many of the expressed concerns about food and agricultural biotechnology are described as "ethical. This White Paper provides a framework for understanding the force of these concerns and a summary overview of them, but it should not be interpreted as a substitute for actual public dialog on ethical concerns. Those who call for attention to ethical issues appeal to many diverse values. Their concerns can be classified into two broad categories. On the one hand, some see the very act of using genetic technology to raise ethical issues that would not apply to other applications of food and agricultural technology.

Agricultural Ethics

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