Global Food Ethics Initiative


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With the world’s population likely to exceed 9.5 billion by 2050, the global community faces an enormous challenge — how to ensure everyone will have enough nutritious and safe food to secure a desirable level of health.

Today over 800 million people are undernourished and two billion are obese or overweight. As climate change threatens food production and the world’s population continues to climb, this picture will only get worse.

Ensuring that every individual has affordable access to sufficient and nutritious food is a profoundly important and consensual moral imperative. However, while there is no debate about the moral imperative to feed the world, there are contested visions of what it means to feed the world ethically. Disagreements exist about what values, beyond human health, should be taken into account, what trade-offs (if any) between values are justifiable in the short- and long-term, and what systems and strategies for the production, distribution, marketing, selling, and consumption of food are ethically acceptable.

The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, along with the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, launched the Global Food Ethics Initiative to take on the challenge of working through conflicting visions of what it means to feed the world ethically and find a concrete path forward even in the absence of consensus about ethical commitments and values.

The main product of the first phase of the Global Food Ethics Initiative is the 7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security. This report is the result of an unprecedented undertaking: gathering a diverse, international, and influential Working Group of experts to build a research and policy agenda for global food ethics that would make a significant, practical contribution to global food security. We put forward seven important and tractable projects to make progress on ethics and global food security in five years.

The 7 by 5 projects:

  1. Ethical Challenges in Projections of Global Food Demand, Supply, and Prices
  2. The Food Sovereignty Movement and the Exceptionality of Food and Agriculture
  3. The Case for the Professionalization of Farming
  4. Global Agricultural Research and Development: Ethics, Priorities, and Funders
  5. Climate-Smart and Climate-Just Agriculture
  6. Ethics of Meat Consumption in High-Income and Middle-Income Countries
  7. Consumers, Certifications, and Labels: Ethically Benchmarking Food Systems

Read the entire 7 by 5 Agenda, or read brief descriptions of the 7 by 5 projects.

Now, we are committed to making the 7 by 5 Agenda a reality. Projects are being further specified, relevant experts identified, and funding sought. As we work to bring attention to the 7 by 5, our hope is not only to see these worthy projects undertaken, but also to help raise awareness in global and regional institutions, national governments, and the general public of the critical importance of ethics to global food policy and practice. Feeding the world is an unquestionable moral imperative. But we must do more than that.

We must feed the world — ethically.

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Initiative Team:

RuthFadenSqRuth Faden, PhD, MPH, Co-Principal Investigator, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics saghaiYashar Saghai, MA, PhD, Project Director, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
glassSara Glass, RD, Project Coordinator, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
Robert Thompson, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator, Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies
Alan Goldberg, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Initiative Advisors:

David Fraser, CM, PhD, Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia Madison Powers, JD, PhD, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, PhD, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University

Other Working Group Members:

Bina Agarwal, PhD, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester Charles Godfray, CBE FRS, The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford
Anne Barnhill, PhD, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania David Groenfeldt, PhD, Water-Culture Institute and Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
Antônio Salazar P. Brandão, PhD, Department of Economic Analysis, State University of Rio de Janeiro Michael Lipton, D.Litt., Poverty Research Unit, University of Sussex
Sylvie M. Brouder, PhD, Professor of Agronomy, Purdue Agriculture Clare Narrod, PhD, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland
Ettore Capri, PhD, Institute of Agricultural Chemistry and Environment, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Piacenza, Italy Pamela Ronald, PhD, Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center, University of California, Davis
Kenneth G. Cassman, PhD, Robert B. Daugherty Professor of Agronomy, Depart of Agronomy & Horticulture, Univ. of Nebraska – Lincoln Richard Visser, PhD, Plant Breeding, Wageningen UR, Netherlands
William Easterling, PhD, Department of Geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State University John Wilkinson, PhD, Graduate Center for Development, Agriculture and Society, Federal Rural University, Rio de Janeiro
Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University Ruqian Zhao, PhD, Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University

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Moral Maps

The “moral maps” were created to guide discussion during the meeting and are the result of participants’ compiled white papers and interviews.

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Working group members were commissioned to author a series of white papers and brief reports. Commissioned paper abstracts are currently available. More information about full-text versions will be available soon.


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News Roundups

Regular News Roundups include project updates, blog posts and a selection of recent articles that relate to global food security and our project’s mission. The articles are not intended to reflect the views of the Global Food Ethics Initiative team but are meant to inform the reader of media attention regarding the subject.

Visit our News Roundup Archive or Sign up for our mailing list to receive News Roundups in weekly emails.

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This project is funded by The Stavros Niarchos Foundation

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