Volume 33, 2017
Power and Public Reason
Commentary on Paul B. Thompson’s From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone
Paul Thompson’s excellent book, From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone, argues that contemporary food ethics persistently ignores the nature and actual impact of GMOs, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, food aid to developing countries, and more. On Thompson’s view, such philosophical analyses must incorporate empirical knowledge. Additional strengths of Thompson’s book: its attention to quality-of-life issues, its openness to the concerns of the marginalized, and its emphasis on the interconnectedness of problems in food ethics. I raise one area of disagreement with Thompson: his treatment of GMOs is, I argue, insufficiently skeptical. I suggest a three-fold revision of the book’s treatment of the precautionary principle, and I levy an additional argument against GMOs, the Inductive Argument. Using the herbicide Roundup as a case study of the ways in which industry urges the use of technologies that have not been fully vetted or monitored, I argue that products originally seen as safe often turn out instead to be harmful to the environment and health. Significant inductive experience with similar cases gives people additional reason to be even more suspicious of GMOs than Thompson suggests.