> Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics


This title is a Work in Progress
Here you will find the online-first version of articles. For this reason, not all articles are available yet; but return frequently - the collection is growing daily!

Welcome to the homepage of the Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics. This extensive reference is currently in development at Springer.


Renewed debate, discussion and inquiry into food and agricultural topics has become a hallmark of the turn toward more sustainable policies and lifestyles in the 21st century. After a half century of neglect, members of the public and specialists from many disciplines have turned their attention to the goals and ethical rationale behind production, distribution and consumption of food, as well as to non-food uses of cultivated biomass and the products of animal husbandry. These wide-ranging debates encompass questions in human nutrition, animal rights and the environmental impacts of aquaculture and agricultural production. They include the role of intensive agriculture and biotechnology in addressing persistent world hunger and the rise of gardening and farming in urban areas, as well as the role of crops, forests and engineered organisms in making a transition to renewable, carbon-neutral sources of energy. The technological push to new frontiers in food and fiber production has reinvigorated questions about the role that farming and fishing play in shaping traditional cultures and social identities. Traditional production methods are seen as closely tied to the historical evolution of peoples, and are continue to be intimately tied to quality of life in rural areas. At the same time, the rapid rise of grocery stores and restaurants even in developing countries is reshaping food consumption habits. Epidemics of obesity and Type II diabetes are now seen as food problems, and questions about the way farm subsidies may be influencing public health have begun to be raised.


Each of these topics is technically complex, and has spawned debates rich in science-based argumentation and analysis. Yet each also involves values. In each case, our thinking on what makes the current situation problematic and what would count as an improvement includes a normative or ethical element. This ethical dimension is often implicit in the work technical specialists and experts, and even in reportage that brings these topics to public attention. Agricultural and food ethics is an activity that aims to bring the ethical and moral components that shape alternative understandings of these topics into the foreground. Ethical analysis of agriculture and food topics has made it clear that implicit value commitments and moral assumptions often underlie competing conceptions of agriculture’s purpose and the goals that food policy and patterns of food consumption are intended to serve. Gaining a clear understanding of the multiple and sometimes conflicting value orientations can transform one’s understanding of food and fiber issues, and can promote more productive democratic debates. Some participants in food ethics debates have also taken a strong advocacy approach, linking patterns of production, distribution and consumption to larger conceptions of social justice and human or animal rights.


The Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics will be a definitive source on issues and scholarship pertaining to the full range of topics in this important new area. The encyclopedia will include detailed analysis of specific topics such as the role of antibiotics in animal production, the Green Revolution, and alternative methods of organic farming, as well as longer entries that summarize general areas of scholarship and explore ways that these topics are related to one another. In every case, articles will provide summaries of how these topics have been approached both historically and especially in the recent scholarly literature. Separate articles will address the social movements that have arisen in connection with food and farming issues, and will analyze how ethical notions, aesthetic judgments and religious or cultural traditions may have influenced the shape and fate of these movements. Other articles will emphasize methods for integrating ethics into scientific and technical research programs or development projects, and will link these methods to the growing interest in participatory decision methods and the democratization of science and technology.


Our goal is to produce a resource that will provide a thorough and intellectually sophisticated introduction to these topics, and a summary overview of existing scholarship and new trends in approaching the issues. Our authors are drawn from an international group of scholars who are at the forefront of research and publication on each of these respective issues. Each has made substantive contributions to agricultural and food ethics in their own right. Each has approached their topic with the aim of providing an overview of competing perspectives that gives credit to important contributions on the issue, regardless of the discipline or country of origin. It is our hope that the Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics will be viewed as an indispensible reference point for future research and writing on topics in agriculture and food ethics for decades to come.

Paul B. Thompson, David M. Kaplan

(Editors in Chief)