After centuries of neglect, the ethics of food are back with a vengeance. Justice for food workers and small farmers has joined the rising tide of concern over the impact of industrial agriculture on food animals and the broader environment, all while a global epidemic of obesity-related diseases threatens to overwhelm modern health systems. An emerging worldwide social movement has turned to local and organic foods, and struggles to exploit widespread concern over the next wave of genetic engineering or nanotechnologies applied to food.
Paul B. Thompson's book applies the rigor of philosophy to key topics in the first comprehensive study explore interconnections hidden deep within this welter of issues. Bringing more than thirty years of experience working closely with farmers, agricultural researchers and food system activists to the topic, he explores the eclipse of food ethics during the rise of nutritional science, and examines the reasons for its sudden re-emergence in the era of diet-based disease. Thompson discusses social injustice in the food systems of developed economies and shows how we have missed the key insights for understanding food ethics in the developing world. His discussions of animal production and the environmental impact of agriculture breaks new ground where most philosophers would least expect it. By emphasizing the integration of these issues, Thompson not only brings a comprehensive philosophical approach to moral issues in the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food – he introduces a fresh way to think about practical ethics that will have implications in other areas of applied philosophy.
"Throughout From Field to Fork, Thompson analyzes a variety of aspects of our contemporary food system, including its relation to obesity, social injustice, livestock welfare, an individuals dietary choice, localism, environmental impact and genetically modified food. With each subject, he goes through some of the ethically relevant information and gives an account of common ethical arguments made about that subject, but his writing does not side with one approach over anotherI would highly recommend this one to anyone already interested in the field of dietary ethics, or a related field, and especially anyone who is considering writing on the topic. [...] I would recommend this book as essential to anyone writing in the field of dietary ethics, even if just to check and make sure that there isn't an opposing harm they aren't considering. I believe this book stands out as unique in its field as a result of who wrote it; you can tell this book was written by an expert in the field and he does a good job summarizing the source material and its reception, both in its own field and more widely in philosophy."
– Claire Worthington Mills, Environmental Values
"From Field to Fork provides a clear, composed foray into the different ways to think about such unwieldy ethical problems as GMOs, meat eating, the treatment of livestock, and charitable food aid undercutting the subsistence farmers' livelihoods."
– Amy Bentley, Times Literary Supplement
"Thompson convincingly shows how food production and food consumption are linked to ethical issues regarding social justice, the environment, and risk. Drawing on three decades of scholarship, he constructs a map of the field that brings together often disconnected discussions concerning (among many other things) poverty, obesity, animal welfare, environmental protection and gene technology. The book clearly lives up to its subtitle, Food Ethics for Everyone, as it is a highly accessible, comprehensive and fair-minded guide to the field."
– Professor and Head of Section for Consumption, Bioethics and Governance, University of Copenhagen
"From Field to Fork makes it clear that every food choice has ethical implications and that sorting out these implications from the science and politics of food is anything but simple. The ethical issues discussed in this book are fascinatingly complex and deserve the serious debates they are sure to stimulate. If ever a book provided food for thought, it's this one."
– Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of Food Politics
"Who eats what, and the journey that food takes – 'field to fork' as Thompson aptly puts it – have becomes major concerns worldwide. The long food way, the web of entanglements connecting my plate to our planet, can overwhelm us – especially when it proves fraught with ethical problems. Who is eating too little, too much, fairly, freely, with what benefits and harms to whom? Here is an excellent moral analysis, a guide from growing in earth to flourishing in the community of life on Earth."
– Holmes Rolston, III, Colorado State University
"Thompson is the outsider's insider. Having worked within and beside top programs in agricultural research throughout his career, he is also sympathetic toward the alternatives to current agricultural production and their advocates. From Field to Fork offers an even-handed ethical analysis that emphasizes making better choices rather than deriving rigid rules based in ideology. This book should set the agenda for the emergent food ethic."
– Bryan Norton, Profesor Emeritus, Georgia Instiute of Technology
Introduction, with a Rough Guide to Ethics
Chapter 1: You Are NOT What You Eat
Chapter 2: Food Ethics and Social Injustice
Chapter 3: The Ethics of Diet and Obesity
Chapter 4: The Fundamental Problem of Food Ethics
Chapter 5: Livestock Welfare and the Ethics of Producing Meat
Chapter 6: The Allure of the Local: Food Systems and Environmental Impact
Chapter 7: Green Revolution Food Technology and Its Discontents
Chapter 8: Once More, This Time with Feeling: Ethics, Risk and the Future of Food
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Paul B. Thompson has been a leading scholar in food ethics for over thirty years. He was present at the founding of three professional societies for food ethics and has served in an advisory capacity for the U.S. National Research Council, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Genome Canada, and Wageningen University and Research Institute in the Netherlands , among others. He edited the Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics (Springer) and writes a blog for Thornapple Community Supported Agriculture in Lansing MI.