Ethics of modern developments in agricultural technologies

[tweetmeme The European group on ethics in science and new technologies published an Opinion on Ethics of modern developments in agricultural technologies, in which they address current trends in agriculture in terms of the sustainable use of resources, ensuring food security and ethical design of agriculatural policies.  The scope of this Opinion reads:

Traditional Central European Farm - Original Image

Food security, energy security, sustainability and globalisation have become core issues in the current political debate worldwide. This debate is enriched by other issues, including climate change, global trade, fluctuations in food and energy prices and the future need for additional energy sources, the revision of the EU common agricultural policy (CAP) and the link between the CAP and the EU economic strategy (the ‘Lisbon agenda’).

In order to address the new challenges and opportunities which lie ahead for EU agriculture, President Barroso asked the EGE to prepare an opinion on the ethical implications of modern developments in agricultural technologies. These should include primary agricultural production, bearing in mind the relationship between agriculture and the natural environment, the UN millennium development goals, such as the fight against world hunger, and the impact of changing agricultural methods on rural and urban communities.

The EGE accepted this complex task, aware that any such opinion, while addressing agricultural technologies, cannot avoid referring to a plethora of interrelated issues, such as the competition for arable land between food, feed, fibres, feedstock or fuel. Because of these considerations, and out of pragmatism, the EGE therefore decided to address the technologies that could be conducive to the priorities supported by the group, namely:

(1) food security;

(2) sustainable use of resources and fair trade at world level in agricultural products; and

(3) ethically sound design of sustainable EU agricultural policies.

Food security and sustainability are therefore the main subjects of this opinion, which will refer mainly to primary production of food of plant origin, and not to other areas of the EU agricultural policy such as fisheries, livestock farming, food processing and green biotechnology for pharmaceutical uses. These, together with other issues that play a role in the global discussion on the CAP (such as fisheries, forestry, climate change and energy), will not be covered ‘specifically’ in this opinion, although they are all recognised by the group as being of fundamental importance in a global discussion on ethics in EU agriculture. However, the group also intends to formulate, in this opinion, an ethical frame for agriculture within which further EGE opinions addressing some of the abovementioned issues may be conceived in the future, respecting the group’s remit.

This EGE opinion is also conceived as a contribution to a global ethical debate on sustainable agriculture, in which international organisations and European institutions will work closely together to implement the UN millennium development goals and design sustainable and responsible agricultural policies.

Read the full publication by clicking here.

Citation: Ethics of modern developments in agricultural technologies, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2009, ISBN: 978-92-79-10646-0 DOI: 10.2796/13650


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