MAN 20005 Lecture 7 Ethics and Non-Human Subject: Agriculture and Food Production Updated 3.10
Food is essential for the survival of human beings
Hunger results from neglect of the universal right to food.
The Value of Food
Ethical practices in every society necessitate us to provide for those who are unable to feed themselves to receive food directly.
Failure to do so is deemed injustice and unethical
Human population growth and demographic shifts
Many developed countries have recorded increases in the proportion of elderly people due to improvements in life expectancy, combined with population growth in developing and under-developed countries.
The global population is increasing to unprecedented levels, posing challenges to food production and distribution.
Developing countries have younger population structures.
Rural-to-urban migration, leading to a world that will soon have more urban than rural inhabitants.
Resulting in considerable shrinkages in the rural labour force that mainly works the agriculture sector
Pressure on natural resources
Exploitation of forests
In the search for more farmland, huge areas are being deforested, leading to soil erosion and massive flooding.
Poorer nation overwhelmed with desperation; whereas producers and consumer in wealthy nations are disincentives for conservation practices.
Plant, animal genetic resources, land, air, water, forests and wetlands are rapidly degrading as a result of pressure from both population growth and increasing market penetration.
Exploitation of water source
Increases in the demand for water for agricultural, industrial and domestic uses are lowering groundwater levels, even permanently depleting aquifers.
Overuse of water also leads to salinization and eventual abandonment of what was once prime agricultural land.
Through the invention of ever-more effective means of catching fish ie : use of huge vessels with canneries on board compete with fishers using simple nets or lines. Exploitation of marine resource
Concentration of economic power
Net worth of the world's 200 richest people is greater than the combined income of 41% of the world's population.
The world's 200 largest transnational corporations account for a ¼ of the world's economic activity.
Agriculture based economies around the world are to be found mostly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
It is in these countries that scores the lowest or even negative governance
Landownership is concentrated in the hand of the rich and powerful
Traditionally agricultural research was the domain of the state. It is now driven by private sector.
As a result, research on crops and livestock that does not profit the private sector will be abandoned.
Biotechnologies could help to increase the supply, diversity and quality of food products, reduce costs of production and processing and reduce pesticide use and environmental degradation.
New era of biotechnology - Genetic Engineering.
For millennia, the food and agriculture system has made use of biotechnologies in the form of fermented foods such as bread, cheese and beer.
ability to select, manipulate and transfer genetic traits from one species to another.
Eg : cloned organisms, such as Dolly
Genetic engineering to date has focus on agenda that is profitable to private sector – eg : herbicide tolerance and insect resistance
Further lead to concentration of economic power.
An extreme scenario could be the use of the new biotechnologies for bioterrorism.
These products may pose new risks to the environment and human health. Eg : transfer of herbicide tolerance to weeds, leading to more aggressive or more competitive weeds; the transfer of food allergenic compounds to products that did not previously contain them
800 million people worldwide are unable to receive food due to non-accessibility and distribution flaws
Food can be better distributed through efficient farm-to-market channel
Other important factors :
direct access road to land
secured price structures that
provide incentives to produce
for the market
accurate market information
d) food processing technique to transform raw material into storable foods
e) employment opportunity to enable people to earn enough to purchase food
f) subsidies for consumer
Ethical food and agriculture system
Ethical-based food and agriculture system would work towards the reduction and eventual elimination of poverty
Production efficiency must be balanced with distribution efficiency.
Effectiveness is measured in terms of fairness and justice
An ethical food and agriculture system must move from free trade to an ethics-based trading system
1982 World Development Report recommend focus on governance to improve agriculture
But very little has improved till to date due to :
(a) free market pressure
(b) lack of macroeconomic policies
(c) unstable political situations
Means to promote an ethical food and agriculture system :
Establish forum to resolve distribution controversies
– eg : Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Codex Alimentarius Commission, Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
Encourage stakeholder participation – eg : dialogue, informed investors through timely, relevant, accurate and easily accessible information.
improve macroeconomic policies
improve economic policies to compliment and be more responsive to the needs of the civil agriculture society
assign good credit ratings to socially responsible growers
f) E stablish programmes, standards and codes
The power of Donor
Donors focus their aid policies to support responsible agrarian
Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, TerrAfrica or the Neuchatel Initiative - provides an informal platform for donors coordination.
Global effort to overcome agricultural challenges such as climate change, pandemic plant, animal diseases and invasive species; conduct research on ‘orphan crops’ that are important for national and local food security (eg. cassava) and reduce transaction costs through standards and rules