The food in our future: where will we find ethics?

Autor:Jeffrey Burkhardt
Cargo:University of Florida
Páginas:86-106
RESUMEN

Food and agricultural systems are in large part driven by technology. Together with public policy, the kinds of technologies that are induced into, or chosen by actors in, food systems, dictates their structure and activities. The "Big Story" or ideology which underlies research, development and adoption of technologies provides the justification for choices we make about the future of the food... (ver resumen completo)

 
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Jeffrey Burkhardt The food in our fuTure
Cuadernos de BioétiCa XXVii 2016/3ª
369
THE FOOD IN OUR FUTURE:
WHERE WILL WE FIND ETHICS?
EL ALIMENTO EN NUESTRO FUTURO:
¿DÓNDE ENCONTRAREMOS LA ÉTICA?
JEFFREY BURKHARDT
University of Florida
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville FL 32611-0240, tel: 1.352-294-7647
burk@ufl.edu
ABSTRACT:
Food and agricultural systems are in large part driven by technology. Together with public policy,
the kinds of technologies that are induced into, or chosen by actors in, food systems, dictates their
structure and activities. The “Big Story” or ideology which underlies research, development and adoption
of technologies provides the justification for choices we make about the future of the food system. A
combination of productionism –more is better, and “feed the world”– is what governs, and seems to
be what will govern Western food systems. Important ethical questions include whether more is better
and whether we will feed the world with our technology and policy. But a parallel question is how will
we include critical consideration of the continued legitimacy of our Big Story? This system, after all, has
worked well for the past century.
RESUMEN:
Los sistemas alimentarios y agrícolas son, en gran parte, impulsados por la tecnología. Junto con la po-
lítica pública, las tipologías de tecnologías que están introducidas, o elegidas por los sujetos en los sistemas
alimentarios, imponen sus estructuras y actividades. La “Gran Historia” o ideología que subyace a la inves-
tigación, al desarrollo y a la adopción de las tecnologías, proporciona la justificación de las decisiones que
tomamos sobre el futuro del sistema alimentario. Una combinación de produccionismo –“more is better”, y
“feed the world”– es lo que gobierna, y parece ser lo que sostendrá, los sistemas alimentarios occidentales.
Las preguntas éticas importantes incluyen si “más es mejor” y si vamos a “alimentar al mundo” con nuestra
tecnología y política. Sin embargo, una cuestión paralela es, ¿cómo vamos a incluir la consideración crítica
de la legitimidad continua de nuestra “Gran Historia”? Este sistema, después de todo, ha funcionado bien
durante el siglo pasado.
Palabras clave:
Ética agrícola;
Tecnología;
Produccionismo;
“Feed the world”
Keywords:
Agricultural ethics;
Technology;
Productionism; “Feed
the world”
Recibido: 09/09/2016
Aceptado: 08/11/2016
Cuadernos de Bioética XXVII 2016/3ª
Copyright Cuadernos de Bioética
Jeffrey Burkhardt The food in our fuTure
Cuadernos de BioétiCa XXVii 2016/3ª
370
1. A vision for agricultural ethics in action
The future food and agriculture system needs food
and agricultural ethics. This may sound over-reaching
and self-serving, coming from someone whose career
has been devoted to bringing ethics to agricultural re-
search, education and outreach. However, given the
fact that this career is nearing its (official) end, it is not
self-serving in a narrow sense to say that food systems
will depend on ethics. Rather, the “self” that this claim
serves is that of a citizen, consumer, and in general a
person who cares about agriculture and the people
who make food happen. If my initial statement still
sounds over-reaching, it is because we have allowed
our conceptions of what ethics can do to be limited
by “practical” considerations. I believe the future of
our food and agricultural systems requires us to think
what might appear to be impractically, but, if food
and agricultural leaders (as the frequently trite say-
ing goes), get “outside the box”, nothing could be
more practical. I propose that we have philosophically-
educated agricultural ethicists actively employed inside
colleges, institutes, departments, etc., of agricultural
science and education, articulating principle-based eth-
ical judgments about even the most ordinary decisions
and actions that take place in the food and agricultural
system. This may not guarantee that the future food
and agricultural system will be sustainable and just, but
it will go a long way toward assuring that the system is
not unsustainable and unjust.
Saying that the future of agriculture depends on eth-
ics is obviously not to suggest that there will be no food
and agricultural system without food and agricultural
ethics. Assuming that humans continue to populate the
Earth, some agrifood activities will exist whether there
is agro-ethics or not. However, the specific nature, shape
or structure of a given set of agrifood activities –with
whatever unique “systemic” functions or consequences
that set of activities has– is not a given. It is by no means
my original thought that the kind of agrifood system
people have and will have depends on choices. However,
in maintaining that the agrifood system’s future depends
on ethics, I am signaling that there is a bigger role for
ethics than has been the case, and more proactive role
than most agricultural leaders have envisioned. Yes, eth-
ics wherever it originates from has provided comment,
analysis, “consciousness raising” concerning the nature
and consequences of our choices about the food system.
Over the century, we have come to see how any “social
provisioning” system, of which the food system is one
, has “values” underlying and guiding it, etc. For forty
years, a lot of people have been actively identifying the
values and concerns and the issues they imply. What I
am proposing here is that agricultural ethics now has to
take us beyond the identifying-explaining “agriculture
and human values” stage; “doing” agricultural ethics
means that we need to decide that some things actually
are morally right or wrong, and we need to make this
plain to anyone who will listen. And it will best happen
inside the establishments which train, educate, shape
and indoctrinate future leaders in the food and agricul-
tural system.
This paper develops these ideas according to the
following script: (1) First, I discuss how the present and
future agrifood system reflects decisions somebody has
made about technology. As has been argued elsewhere
, the agrifood system is in large part driven by techno-
logical change; indeed, the “future of agriculture” is fre-
quently identified with the technological changes, ad-
vances, progress, that will move agriculture “forward”
. So understanding the nature and contexts of decisions
about technological change requires that we examine
technology-related decisions. And this in turn leads us
to acknowledge that technology in the agrifood system
cannot be viewed as a some kind of inexorable and
impersonal force doing the driving. Rather, technology
adoption and diffusion (even its larger social manifes-
tations and consequences) is just one (more) species
of ethically-significant human interactions; people (for
better or worse) are the drivers, so that people not
technology are what “drives” the future. (2) Second,
I will discuss the “stories” that have been told and
lived by nearly everybody in the food system, from
(some) farmers, to corporate salespeople, to scientists
and science managers/administrators, to policy-makers

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