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Global Food Ethics


East Baltimore
4th term
Berman Institute (Bioethics)
3 credits
Academic Year:
2019 - 2020
Class Times:
  • Tuesday,  3:30 - 6:20pm
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor :
  • Anne Barnhill
Anne Barnhill

One of the great challenges of our time is how we will secure and provide plentiful, healthy, and nutritious food for all. The health, environmental, economic, and societal costs will be substantial if we don’t change our course of action. How do we do this in an environmentally sustainable manner, while protecting the welfare and rights of agricultural workers and the well-being of non-human animals? Solving this challenge is riddled with ethical concerns. This class will explore the ethical and moral issues that arise within the global food system and will give students the opportunity to think critically about conflicting views of a sustainable food system in the future.

Introduces and explores the ethical issues of the global food system. Provides students with the opportunity to think critically about a variety of conflicting views as to what it means to produce, process, distribute, market and consume food ethically in a globalized world. Borrows tools from practical ethics, political philosophy, and theories of justice to shed light on these issues that determine our common future and the way we personally and socially relate to the food we eat.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify the major ethical debates and challenges of the global food system from agriculture production systems to consumer knowledge and behavior
  2. Critique significant societal values and ethical assumptions that shape the food system
  3. Identify and analyze the obligations and responsibilities of different actors in high- middle and low-income countries, including local food movements, consumers, the food and agriculture industry players, and the public sector
  4. Explain how programs and policies (in high-, middle- and low-income countries) can take an ethical lens to decision-making and partnerships pertaining to the food system
  5. Identify potential short- and long-term ethically permissible, socially acceptable, and politically feasible solutions and strategies for producing, processing, distributing, marketing, selling and consuming food
  6. Apply personal experiences to an exploration of the ethical issues of the global food system
Methods of Assessment:

Short paper 20%, Event paper 10%, Class participation 10%, Précis presentation and discussion leadership 20%, Final research paper 40%

Enrollment Restriction:

Enrollment Priority given to Master of Bioethics students

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

Consent required for Undergraduates

For consent, contact:

Special Comments:

In addition to the textbooks, there are several useful online resources that you’re encouraged to consult: The website. This website, maintained by Madison Powers, provides an eye-opening roadmap of the food-energy-water nexus from a global justice perspective. David M. Kaplan’s “Philosophy of Food Project” ( This website has useful summaries of philosophical arguments related to food. Course meets in the Berman Institute of Bioethics, Deering Hall, Lower Level Conference room