Toward an Ethical Economics of Food Policy

William A. Masters, an agricultural economist who has turned up on this blog before, recently gave an interesting farewell speech at Purdue University (he is moving to Tufts).?Masters offers a vision for both “unified fields in the social sciences” and “an ethical economics of agriculture and food policy.” “What if organic, local, traditional and artisanal products don’t actually deliver a healthier, more secure and sustainable food system?” Masters asks. “This is not a hypothetical question. Right now, the preponderance of evidence is pointing in that direction.” [%comments]

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  1. Eric M. Jones says:

    “What if organic, local, traditional and artisanal products don’t actually deliver a healthier, more secure and sustainable food system?”

    Grrrrrr……So who designed the food distrubution system of NYC?

    The real issue here is that the imposition of some “plan” is viewed as the solution to the “problem” whereas we actually should be looking at why a person’s best efforts doesn’t usually lead to a reward in many places.–Or in plain terms, why isn’t market capitalism working in many places?

    …e.g. like Haiti, Afghanistan, North Korea and Zimbabwe?

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  2. dave says:

    Anyone have a clue what this evidence of which he speaks is?

    A speech is not the place for footnotes, but perhaps the author of this post ought to have provided some context and support when choosing to highlight a rather provocative statement.

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  3. Rick says:

    Provocative statements get people to read blogs…

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  4. Kent says:

    I want to know who funds his research.

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  5. frankenduf says:

    well, we already know the answer to the converse: What if genetically engineered/patented, multinational corporate, artificial, and monoculture products don’t actually deliver a healthier, more secure, and sustainable food system (he left out to whom)?- it don’t matta, cuz u aint got the power to stop Monsanto

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  6. Ed says:

    After reading his speech one of two things must be at play

    1) he is a robot and doesn’t required actual food that humans eat (or hasn’t ever actually tasted food, local or industrial)

    2) is paid by Monsanto / Cargill / etc….

    I’m an urban farmer and the food I grow tastes better. That is my single marketing tool, not that it’s from just down the street, not that is better than organic, not that we are saving the planet … but simply my food is better, and that is why people buy it, at least that’s what they tell me.

    If the industrial food complex can make food as good as I do, I’d be glad to go back to programming computers, but I doubt that is going to happen.

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  7. Brian says:

    @Ed You confuse “tastes better” with “is better”.

    I think the point of this speech was to shake things up a bit considering the trend towards organic and local food. What if the industrial food complex could be reformed to make food that “is better”? Wouldn’t that start to chip away at world hunger and health issues? Isn’t that the right or ethical thing to do?

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  8. Ann says:

    I have no idea what evidence Masters is referring to. I wish he’d elaborate. The “preponderance of evidence” I’ve seen in my own reading is exactly the opposite. In our quest to produce better yields and better shelf life, we’ve managed to produce far more calories than we need, with fewer nutrients than the foods had in the past. The people who pay for this tend to be poor, because they buy the cheapest calories without regard to the quality of the calories. We end up at the extreme with kids who are both obese and malnourished at the same time.

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