Back in 2000, FAO designated “Ethics in Food and Agriculture” as a priority area for interdisciplinary action. In recognition of this designation, Dr Jacques Diouf, FAO’s Director-General established a Panel of Eminent Experts on Ethics in Food and Agriculture to advise him on pressing issues of ethics in food and agriculture. The panel of experts identified the fundamental ethical issue for FAO as “to ensure humanity’s freedom from hunger and the access of everyone to adequate food” and issued three reports on their deliberations. 

FAO also produced a publication series on the ethical dimensions of its work, which includes four papers:

  • Ethical issues in food and agriculture
  • Genetically modified organisms, consumers, food safety and the environment
  • The ethics of sustainable agricultural intensification
  • Ethical issues in fisheries

Collectively, these documents provide a very useful introduction to food ethics issues at the international level, especially with regards to the role of the ethical dimensions of work by groups like FAO and are well worth a read for folks interested in food ethics issues.

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One Response to Food Ethics: Perspectives from FAO


    The ethical implications and given quandaries in fisheries seemed to me a fascinating series, so I elected to peruse through its respective publication series on FAO’s domain site. The publication debriefed about sector-specific issues within the fishery realm, these being ‘poverty; the right to food; and overfishing and ecosystem degradation.’ What follows the expose of each sector-specific issue is a brief discussion of moral imperatives, given the state of world fisheries.

    The authors are collectively agreeing that any implementation of moral principles must remain ‘culture-dependent.’ To reinforce this point, ‘global, generalized prescriptions can only be developed through intensive mechanisms of consultation aimed at identifying the widest common base possible.’ Given the complexity of such intent to act, can we realistically anticipate positive change from personal agendas put forth? Well, with the unanimous adoption of The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in 1995 by the FAO Conference, a resounding ‘yes’ to such an inquiry seems apt. However, principles and standards put forth in The Code are not binding and non-mandatory by its very nature.

    With this knowledge, an ethical analysis of the implications of the Code’s implementation is of high necessity. Open and free discussion can alleviate conflict of interest in the realm of the fishing industry and help distinguish, as the publication notes, ‘between those that serve narrow, selfish interests and those that serve general public interests. Public fora where people can voice their concerns directly…are important, as the outcome of the dialogues, being public, is more likely to be implemented.’ For example, policy brainstorming for how to avoid over-exploitation and ensure resource conservation in a just and sustainable fashion; the implications for such conjuring of ideas would be wasted without open and free discussion.

    All in all, therein lies much more to the puzzling ethical dimensions of fisheries. Uncontrolled exploitation and absence of uniform, mandated policy has inspired a need for contemporary management and conservation ideologies. The question then begs, who is held liable for modifying any ordinance or decree already in place?

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