Ethical, legal, political and social tensions in agri-food systems
Theme leader: Dr Garrett Brown
The need for this novel justice-based approach is based on three core assumptions: first, that there are several compelling ethical goods at stake in food production (nutritional health, animal welfare, livelihood of food producers and environmental sustainability); second, that current food production models are global and integrated; and finally, that global institutions have a key role in the realisation of a just global food system.
Four research questions follow from these assumptions:
- As a matter of substantive justice, how ought we to balance the difficult tensions that exist between the ethical goods of nutritional health, animal welfare, livelihood and environmental sustainability in the global production and consumption of food?
- By way of contrast, how are these ethical tensions currently balanced within existing global food production and consumption chains?
- If key participants in food production and consumption were to deliberate upon these ethical goods, their meanings, and priority – then how would they suggest balancing these ethical goods?
- What reforms are required in the existing governance architecture (from local to global levels) to realise global food justice? What factors may obstruct such reforms?
Our approach to addressing these challenges involves six stages:
- Stage 1 involves mapping the selected food chains, to identify those ‘nodes’ where our four ethical goods are in tension. Although there has been past work on commodity value chains (the assignment of economic value), there is very little existingcommodity mapping that inserts ethical ‘values’ in the assessment of a value chain.
- Stage 2 involves identifying and elaborating upon the basic ethical goods that are engaged by food production – in order to work up substantive moral principles, offered as the basis for reflection and debate rather than as a means to shortcut the political process.
- Stage 3 entails fieldwork to develop more thorough accounts of the nodes identified in Stage 1 within the commodity chains where our ethical goods are in tension.
- Stage 4 involves using material garnered from stages 2 and 3 to develop a set of scenarios for more justly balancing tensions between our ethical goods.
- Stage 5 involves establishing deliberative forums for stakeholders to deliberate on our scenarios with the objective of locating the most just scenario for balancing the four ethical goods.
- Stage 6 involves conducting an analysis of the existing governance architecture (from local to global levels) to identify necessary reforms for realising food justice as defined over the previous stages.