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Local food and international ethics

By M. C. Navin

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Many advocate practices of 'local food' or 'locavorism' as a partial solution to the injustices and unsustainability of contemporary food systems. I think that there is much to be said in favor of local food movements, but these virtues are insufficient to immunize locavorism from criticism. In particular, three duties of international ethics - beneficence, repair and fairness - may provide reasons for constraining the developed world's permissible pursuit of local food. A complete account of why (and how) the fulfillment of these duties constrains locavorism will require extensive empirical evidence about the relationship between agricultural demand-led industrialization, international trade (rules), and local food practices. In this paper I can only gesture at some of this evidence and, for that reason, my policy prescriptions are merely provisional. Instead, the upshot of this paper is that advocates of locavorism ought to be attentive to the empirical-dependence of the moral permissibility of their projects. As local food 'scales up' - and comes to be embraced as a goal of political communities - these concerns should receive even greater attention.

Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 349-368
ISBN/ISSN 0893-4282
Publisher Springer
DOI 10.1007/s10806-014-9492-0
Language English
Author Address Department of Philosophy, Oakland University, 341 O'Dowd Hall, Rochester, MI 48309-4401,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Anthropology
  4. Constraints
  5. Countries
  6. Developed countries
  7. Ethics
  8. Food economics
  9. Food policy
  10. Foods
  11. Food science
  12. Industrialization
  13. International trade
  14. origin
  15. Policy and Planning
  16. Social psychology and social anthropology
  17. trade