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Unformatted text preview: BEFORE DINNER The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics VOLUME 5 Editors Michiel Korthals, Dept. of Applied Philosophy, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands Paul B. Thompson, Dept. of Philosophy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, U.S.A. Editorial Board Timothy Beatley, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, U.S.A. Lawrence Busch, Dept. of Sociology, Michigan State University, Lansing, U.S.A. Anil Gupta, Centre for Management in Agriculture, Gujarat, India Richard Haynes, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Florida, Gainesville, U.S.A. Daryl Macer, The Eubios Ethics Institute, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan Ben Mepham, Centre for Applied Bio-Ethics, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Loughborough, United Kingdom Dietmar Mieth, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany Egbert Schroten, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN 1-4020-2992-6 (HB) ISBN 1-4020-2993-4 (e-book) Published by Springer, P.O. Box 17, 3300 AA Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Sold and distributed in North, Central and South America by Springer, 101 Philip Drive, Norwell, MA 02061, U.S.A. In all other countries, sold and distributed by Springer, P.O. Box 322, 3300 AH Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Printed on acid-free paper Revised edition and translation of the Dutch book: Voor het Eten, uitgeverij Boom, 2002. springeronline.com All Rights Reserved © 2004 Springer No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the Publisher, with the exception of any material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work. Printed in the Netherlands. CONTENTS List of tables and figures Acknowledgment Foreword ix xi xiii Chapter 1: Good food, good eating, good living 1.1 How it all began 1.2 What is the matter with our food? 1.3 The setup of this book 1 3 4 5 Chapter 2: What do philosophers say about nutrition? A brief history 2.1 Production 2.2 Consumption 2.3 Conclusion 7 8 11 15 Chapter 3: Toward a philosophy of nutrition 3.1 Esthetic, social, cultural, and moral functions of food 3.2 You are not what you eat 17 17 21 Chapter 4: Modern and postmodern lifestyles and foodstyles 4.1 Nature, risks, globalization, and individualization 4.2 Late-modern lifestyles and foodstyles 23 23 25 Chapter 5: Ethics and politics of nutrition - liberal versus deliberative perspectives 5.1 Autonomy and fairness versus identity in a community 5.2 The neutral liberal perspective on autonomy 5.3 Problems of the liberal approach 5.4 The deliberative perspective on nutrition 5.5 Toward non-neutral, impartial ethics and politics of nutrition 5.6 Conclusion 29 29 32 35 37 39 41 Chapter 6: Living with ethical dilemmas 6.1 Ethical dilemmas in agriculture and nutrition 6.2 Three approaches in food ethics 6.3 Deliberative ethics – debate, values, and trust 6.4 Heuristic of ethical reasoning 6.5 Conclusion 45 45 47 51 55 58 v vi CONTENTS Chapter 7: Welfare of and respect for living beings. May we eat anything? 7.1 Plants 7.2 Humans versus animals? Anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, and zoocentrism 7.3 Some of my best friends eat meat. Philosophers about eating meat 7.4 Does keeping animals imply caring for them? 7.5 Justification for killing and eating farm animals 7.6 Keeping cattle in large or small volumes 7.7 The failure of agricultural expertise and the cost-benefit analysis in the foot-and-mouth disease crisis 7.8 Conclusion 61 62 64 68 71 86 90 92 94 Chapter 8: Heaven or hell: scientific production and preparation of food 8.1 Scientific production, cooking, and eating of food 8.2 Great promises and the turnaround to Frankenfear 8.3 Between food and drug – functional food 8.4 Genomics and nutrigenomics 8.5 A deliberative and practical perspective – new practices and responsibilities 8.6 How shall we feed ourselves in a technological culture? 8.7 Conclusion – Does food technology mean good living? 97 99 101 113 126 130 Chapter 9: Globalization of the food production system 9.1 Globalization and its discontents 9.2 Trading in food – risks and culture 9.3 Poverty and world hunger 9.4 International democratic government structures and public forums 135 136 141 145 147 Chapter 10: Consumers, abundance, and responsibility 10.1 Consumption or consumer society 10.2 Where consumers stand – on the sideline 10.3 Consumers, citizens, and markets 10.4 Tastes – enjoying, feasting, and fasting 10.5 Gluttony – sin or pleasure 10.6 Individual rights and responsibility 149 150 152 155 160 164 173 Chapter 11: The future of nutrition and agriculture 11.1 Three challenges 11.2 Key ethical concepts 11.3 The edible landscape in Europe and the rest of the world 11.4 Conscious consumers 11.5 The edible government 11.6 Good living is eating with moral dilemmas 175 175 176 177 179 180 183 131 132 CONTENTS vii Appendix 1 Differences in Risk Perception and Views on Food Safety 185 Appendix 2 New Public Responsibilities for Food Scientists 193 Literature 201 About the author 213 LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES Chapter 4 Table 1. Mouth sensations and flavor styles according to Klosse 2004 Chapter 5 Table 2. Ethical Perspectives Justice and The Good Life Table 3. Advocates and opponents of GM-Food or Functional Food according to Ethical Perspectives Justice and The Good Life Table 4. The relationships between different types of discussions according to Habermas Table 5. Relationship between notions Justice and The Good Life according to Rawls and Habermas Chapter 6 Table 6. Ethical matrix filled in by Mepham 1996 Figure 1. The four layer-model of society Table 7. Differences between intention/opinion and decision making processes Table 8. Notions Justice and Good Life in the deliberative perspective Chapter 10 Figure 2. Relationships between eating pleasure and animal welfare Chapter 11 Table 9. Tasks of governments in food policy Appendix 1 Table 10. Ideological fronts about risks and food safety ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The translation of this publication was carried out with the support of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). xi FOREWORD Hardly a day goes by that we do not hear about some scandal or problem related to agriculture and food: the risk of cancer from eating French fries, salmonella in chickens, dioxin in pigfeed, pesticide residues in organic chickens. Obesity has taken on epidemic proportions, experts call for a ban on junkfood. But at the same time, we also hear all sorts of positive reports from nutrition experts: a life free from illness, a medical food that prevents memory loss, a fatty substance that does not make us fat. It is hard enough to grasp the exact implications of this news; it is even more difficult to penetrate to their ethical and philosophical core. Lots of conversations with friends and acquaintances, especially around generous tables, have helped me enormously in maturing my unripe thoughts. I have benefited greatly from the time that I spent with Hans Roelofsen and Reina Boelens; through their music they have taught me more about eating and living than anyone. Also the many hours spent with Paul and Diana Thompson, who received me with great hospitality during my sabbatical in the US and at other times, whetted my appetite for more. It was wonderful to touch on philosophic issues with Jozef Keulartz and Maartje Schermer; the same applies for Tsjalling Swierstra and Guy and Ineke Widdershoven. Avner de-Shalit kept putting me back on a libertarian train of thought. Athalya Brenner enabled me to see more than just the philosophical side of eating. With his enthusiasm, Matias Pasquali helped me cross troublesome barriers. Lawrence Busch, Jan Staman, and Peter Kenmore are each involved with food in their own unique way. And let me not forget the three Important Women: Manon, Roxanne, and Atie. At times they inspired me to such an extent that I was no longer sure whether a particular idea originated from them or from me; I just hope that I have inspired them in the same way. From colleagues at Wageningen University, other universities, and the university of life I have learned much, such as from Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Andrew Long, Paul Richards, Rudy Rabbinge, Hans van Trijp, Tini van Boekel, Henk van den Belt, Volkert Beekman, Marian Deblonde, Frans Brom, Hauke Brunkhorst, Ruth Chadwick, Gert-Jan Hageman, Vaughan Schlepp, Bram van der Vlugt, Joanneke Bekkenkamp, Bea Prijn, and Phoebe TheCat. My sincere thanks to each of them. Michiel Korthals July 2004 xiii CHAPTER 1 GOOD FOOD, GOOD EATING, GOOD LIVING Philosophy and food, do they go together? After all, isn’t philosophy about the higher things in life, while food deals with lowly, everyday concerns? These are misconceptions. Eating and drinking are altogether essential elements of human life. When we eat, we connect to reality, to nature around us. What’s more, it becomes part of us, we taste it and feel it. We renew our body by partaking of products from nature. Food issues have been ignored for too long by philosophy, for philosophy deals with the essential issues of human life. Food and philosophy belong together, like body and nature. That is why it is a serious oversight, a blind spot in the thinking of philosophers, that so few philosophies of nutrition have ever been published in the English-speaking world. So let’s get to work! Nutrition, food: what is it really? We consume food products: fruit, vegetables, meat, potatoes, you name it. All of these are products of nature that we produce, process, eat and drink, and make a part of ourselves. Our bodies convert products from nature like bread, cheese, wine, fish, and meat into good or bad thoughts, into heroic or cowardly actions. Every bite into a juicy apple converts this wondrous mixture of smell, color, and taste into flesh and blood. And possibly into amusing thoughts, smooth talk, a good laugh, or a kick in the ass. It does not sound at all odd to say that the sentences I am writing down here and now, is the omelet I feasted on this morning changed into words. Through nutrition, nature becomes human thoughts and actions. It is often said: you are what you eat, we are what we eat. What does that mean? Are the stories that I tell right here and now already contained in that omelet? When I eat something exquisite, like caviar, people consider me an exquisite person. In that sense it is correct that you are what you eat. But when I eat the food that Pete Sampras or Martina Hingis eats, will that make me just a good a tennis player as they are? If I go on Pavarotti’s diet, will I then become another Pavarotti? And if I eat what Eminem eats, does that make me Eminem? According to the cheese ad of Friends of the Earth, I will start mooing like a cow if I eat organic cheese. So if I eat inorganic cheese, will I then become a factory? Well, it’s not as simple as that. Pavarotti’s quiche does not contain his aria, the steak that Pete Sampras bolts down does not yet contain his hard returns. And there might well be a hair in the soup of William Shakespeare, but not his poems. It is more complicated; we are not always what we eat. No doubt about it: good eating contributes to good living. If the one is below par, then the other suffers too. But good eating is getting more difficult all the time. Not so much because the direct taste of a food product causes problems, but because the way the product is made is getting more problematic all the time. Good eating is 1 2 CHAPTER 1 problematic because food production has become problematic. And that makes good living much more difficult as well. Food is a question of personal identity, which is in a real state of flux in the Western world. This is why food has been getting a prominent role in public debates. Information about nutrition is likewise subject to dynamic changes. The information relates, for example, to the value of health claims about specific food products, or the quality of an ecoseal, or the alleged pro-animal nature of a product. Since the sciences and technology behind these products change so quickly, knowledge-related issues, such as information gaps or access to information, receive a lot of attention. A set of knowledge ethics that takes these issues seriously would have to address the fact that the concept of agriculture and nature that consumers have hardly corresponds with modern food production. Many people still believe that a pork chop comes from a freely rummaging little pig that is constantly petted on the head by a stubble-bearded farmer. When it turns out to be altogether different, they are astounded or even outraged. Still, information about food, no matter how important, is not the decisive factor in the preferences of consumers. More important are the value choices that consumers make: their judgements about the obligations, values, facts, expectations, and price options that they see. Information and ethical considerations are inseparably linked in the choice for a specific eating style. Society shows great interest in nutrition. In this study I will concentrate on the main philosophic issues. What stages does food go through before it enters our mouth? Was this food a living being first, like an animal or a plant, and what did those living organisms undergo? May we eat just anything? If so, how can we regulate those processes so that they lead to optimum animal welfare while at the same time producing optimum taste? The production of food also causes environmental pollution – does the fight against hunger have priority over the care of the environment? The care of the environment, animal welfare, and the quality of food should be in a certain harmony, but that is far from granted and hardly easy to achieve. These factors are not always in balance; rather, they are often in conflict with each other. A balance will thus need to be searched for. But there are more factors. Many I have not even mentioned yet, such as the issue of global famine, the care for a farming class that is able to keep its head above water in a decent way, a fair trade system that does not throw up unnecessary barriers for newcomers or small market participants and that promotes good nutrition. These factors give the social meaning of nutrition a new dimension: food is about feasting and fasting, about plenty and famine. Famine continues to be a widespread phenomenon that violates human rights; it is absolutely a shame that nearly a billion people still suffer from hunger or malnutrition. At the same time, deliberate hunger and abundance are prevalent in the Western world. Both issues refer to the social and cultural aspects of food. Scientific and technological developments also play an increasingly important role. Almost every bite that we take is determined by scientific developments, even when we think that we are simply eating a fresh apple. After all, for most people in GOOD FOOD, GOOD EATING, GOOD LIVING 3 the Western world the choice to eat an apple is heavily impacted by the scientific information that apples are good for you. An extra difficulty is that scientific information is often contradictory, or that it relies on statistical probabilities that are difficult to translate into everyday certitudes. All of these factors deserve attention, but it is the mix that is most important. In the land of food, ‘either or’ does not exist, only ‘both and’. The adequate measure of ‘both and’ serves as the starting point for a philosophical reflection. 1.1 How it all began A starting point for food and nutrition is nature, with its abundance of living (biotic) elements, such as animals and plants, and non-living (abiotic) elements, such as water and air. Nature helps us to stay alive. And not only us human beings, but also all other living beings. Nature presents itself to us as a coherent whole. In nature, living beings are dependent on each other – each needs the other. There are great differences among the numerous elements in nature. It is difficult to say which elements are essential to ensure that nature endures and which are not, why it is that some ecosystems continue to exist for ages, while others disappear after a short time. Experts speak of ecosystems and interaction. Add to that the changing of the seasons: new life in the spring, expressing itself in trees and plants coming into leaf, then dying in the fall. Growth means transition, new events occurring, all things changing all the time. But it means also dying. Many people think that nature is one great dance party, where the dance partners must be on the same wavelength with each other. Otherwise things go wrong, with people stepping on each other’s toes or, even worse, a dance partner falling by the wayside. Sometimes it is a wild and savage dance, where the outcome is uncertain, and sometimes a quiet, intimate dance with beautiful effects. Bees produce honey and spread the pollen of plants; the leaves of trees provide shade to the animals in the field; the birds get rid of harmful insects; and plants benefit in turn from that. And consider the butterflies – they dance with the flowers. But more often it looks like a fight, a continuous struggle. And among all those complex processes of nature we human beings need to gain a foothold. No human being is satisfied with merely the fruits of the field. To eat, we need to intervene, to work the land, weeding and watering it in a quiet and well-considered way. But sometimes we intervene in a very drastic way, killing plants or animals in order to enable other plants or animals, such as homo sapiens, to prosper. In other words, people are gardener or butcher, but often both. We may try to have that distasteful work, such as slaughtering, done by others – behind curtains, wherever possible, so that we do not see it –, but in essence we are all butchers. Butchers on behalf of life, to be sure; I will come back on this in the third theme. No delicacy flies into our mouth of itself; the land of plenty, with rivers of milk and honey, with streams of wine, does not exist. Agriculture has around now since at least ten thousand years; hunting, gathering, and fishing much longer. Those activities imply that people learn certain skills and familiarize themselves with the characteristics and skills of other living beings in 4 CHAPTER 1 their vicinity, such as deer and rabbits, or berries and mushrooms. Hunting, fishing and farming must be learned; working with nature does not come of itself. You need knowledge, which you acquire from your parents, your friends, at school. Such knowledge is very local, based on local soil conditions and weather circumstances, on your own preferences and more. To fish, you need to know how to catch a fish before you can eat it. A fish does not just fly into your mouth; something needs to be done first. You need to know what kind of bait attracts the fish, to know that some types of fish stay away from clear water, whereas they allow themselves to be caught in murky water. You need to know your way like a thief in the night, and sometimes you have to outsmart a fish with trickery and deceit. As a fisherman, you need to act fast, to strike suddenly. With agriculture it is quite different. Agriculture does not have the quickness of fishing and hunting. It does not involve sudden action; it means building up something gradually. You need to look far ahead. Agriculture is a long-term investment; you need to allow long stretches of time to pass you by. While a fisherman or hunter must move around quickly, agriculture means being bound to a specific place, being tied to the land. After you have sown, it still takes long before you can harvest. And then you need to look ahead again, ...
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