Respecting The Autonomy of European and American Consumers: Defending Positive Labels on Gm Foods

Article

Abstract

In her recent article, “Does autonomy count in favor of labeling genetically modified food?,” Kirsten Hansen argues that in Europe, voluntary negative labeling of non-GM foods respects consumer autonomy just as well as mandatory positive labeling of foods with GM content. She also argues that because negative labeling places labeling costs upon those consumers that want to know whether food is GM, negative labeling is better policy than positive labeling. In this paper, we argue that Hansen’s arguments are mistaken in several respects. Most importantly, she underestimates the demands of respecting autonomy and overestimates the cost of positive labeling. Moreover, she mistakenly implies that only a small minority of people desire information about GM content. We also explore the extent to which her arguments would apply to the US context, and argue that any discussion of the relationship between autonomy and labeling should include not just considerations of consumer autonomy but also considerations of what we call citizen autonomy.

Keywords

autonomy genetically modified foods GM foods labeling 

References

  1. Brock, D. 1999A Critique of Three Objections to Physician-Assisted SuicideEthics109519547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. The Center for Food Safety, “Compilation and Analysis of Public Opinion Polls on Genetically Engineered Foods,” available on World Wide Web: http://centerforfoodsafety.org/facts&issues/polls.html (September 30, 2003)
  3. Gaskell, G., N. Allum, M. Bauer, J. Durant, A. Allansdottir, H. Bonfadelli, D. Boy, S. deCheveigné, B. Fjaestad, J. Gutteling, J. Hampel, E. Jelsøe, J. Jesuino, M. Kohring, N. Kronberger, C. Midden, T. Nielsen, A. Przestalski, T. Rusanen, G. Sakellaris, H. Torgersen, T. Twardowski, and W. Wagner, “Biotechnology and the European Public,” Nature Biotechnology 18(September) (2000), 935–938Google Scholar
  4. Hansen, K. 2004Does Autonomy Count In Favor of Labeling Genetically Modified Food?Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics176776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kalaitzandonakes, N. and J. Bijman, “Who Is Driving Biotechnology Acceptance?” Nature Biotechnology 21(April) (2003), 366–369Google Scholar
  6. Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, “GM Food Safety: Are Government Regulations Adequate?” Available on World Wide Web: http://pewagbiotech.org/buzz/display.php3?StoryID=42 (September 2003)
  7. Program on International Policy Attitudes, “US Public Opinion on Biotechnology,” available on the World Wide Web: http://www.americans-world.org/digest/global_issues/biotechnology/biotech3.cfm (2003)
  8. Rawls, J., A Theory of Justice, revised edn. (Belknap Press, Cambridge, 1999)Google Scholar
  9. Shiffrin, S. 2000Paternalism, Unconscionability Doctrine, and AccommodationPhilosophy and Public Affairs29205250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Streiffer, R., Rubel, A. 2004Democratic Principles and Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered FoodPublic Affairs Quarterly18223248Google Scholar
  11. Streiffer, R., Rubel, A. 2003Choice Versus Autonomy In The GM Food Labeling DebateAgBioForum6141142Google Scholar
  12. Thompson, P. 1997Food Biotechnology in Ethical PerspectiveBlackie, Academic and ProfessionalLondonGoogle Scholar
  13. United States Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (USFDA), “Report on Consumer Focus Groups on Biotechnology,” available on World Wide Web: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/biorpt.html (October 20, 2000).

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations