, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 895-907

Food Citizenship: Is There a Duty for Responsible Consumption?

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Abstract

Labeling of food consumption is related to food safety, food quality, environmental, safety, and social concerns. Future politics of food will be based on a redefinition of commodity food consumption as an expression of citizenship. “Citizen-consumers” realize that they could use their buying power in order to develop a new terrain of social agency and political action. It takes for granted kinds of moral selfhood in which human responsibility is bound into human agency based on knowledge and recognition. This requires new kinds of food labeling practices. Existing research on consumer’s preferences often fails to recognize the full complexity of the motivations and intentions through which the identity of the moral self is built up in relation to food consumption practices. For citizens, not only food production practices matter but also the impact of what we eat on who we are and the ecological foot print of our food stuff. Two major drivers for this are the idea that we ourselves have to take care of our own bodies (“We are what we eat”) and that we are responsible for Planet Earth. Since both obesity and climate change have become major public concerns, also governments develop an increasing interest in defining how citizens ought to behave as consumers and how retailers and producers should facilitate such responsible behavior. Since they are supposed to defend the “bonum commune,” e.g., the public health of their citizens and a sound common future for all, a new consensus on “appropriate” consumption choices has to be found, balancing beneficence and autonomy.