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ETHICAL ISSUES FACING THE FOOD INDUSTRY

ETHICAL ISSUES FACING THE FOOD INDUSTRY,Paul B. Thompson

ETHICAL ISSUES FACING THE FOOD INDUSTRY  
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The array of ethical issues facing the food industry is extensive. It includes fair and just treatment to food industry employees, especially as disproportionate numbers of minorities take jobs in food processing and food service. Issues of food distribution and hunger continue to be important. In the calendar year 1992, however, these issues pale in comparison to those raised by food safety and labeling. The impetus for this issue is multiple, The Nutritional Food Labeling Policy Act has mandated new labels intended to provide consumers with consistent information on ingredients that will be useful in dietary planning. Questions over labeling of foods derived from the transfer of genetic materials are being asked by regulators, the food industry and by consumer advocates. The so-called "Delaney paradox," has raised questions about the ethics of limiting risk from additives, while risk associated with whole foods is unregulated. At the same time, lingering questions about risk from pesticide residues and microbial contamination frame a continuing debate over food safety, one which frequently returns to labeling as a strategy for addressing consumer concerns. The balance of this paper outlines a frame- work for policy analysis, and demonstrates how ethics bears upon each element of the framework. Contested issues in food biotechnology policy are used to illustrate the applicability of the frame- work for interpreting policy conflict. Although this approach addresses several of the key points where ethical concerns bear upon food biotechnol- ogy, the paper makes no attempt to survey the full range of ethical concern. What is more, the paper does not present a normative argument favoring one policy option rather than another. The idea that ethics requires a particular set of policies for food biotechnology is not argued in this paper. Instead, the purpose is to examine how ethical arguments establish a burden of proof for policy evaluation. The thesis is that effective policy making requires an ability to understand how different types of ethical criteria bear on policy, Insensitivity to contrasting ethical approaches will only prolong policy conflict.
Published in 1993.
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