Probing Future Foods

Paul B. Thompson

The things that people eat have always undergone change, but today there are both technological innovations and novel environmental constraints that are driving change. How can we bring ethics to bear on the types of change that are shaping the food systems of the future? Paul Thompson will probe this question, emphasizing the way that we assess the risks of new food technology and scenarios for reshaping the food system in response to future challenges.

Four Archetypes for Future Food Systems

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
11:10 am, Samuelson Chapel

In the coming half century our food systems will be stressed by climate change, increased urbanization and growing scarcity of resources relative to human population. Four archetypal characterizations of how food will be produced, processed, distributed and consumed can help us generate scenarios to consider these changes. These archetypes help us consider the environmental sustainability and food justice of food system change.

Social Amplification of Risk: The Ethical Questions

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
4:00 pm, Samuelson Chapel

Risk scholars have shown how assessments of biophysical hazards are influenced by social factors ranging from race and gender to stigma and outrage. But are there cases in which these influences should be regarded as legitimate factors that should be accounted for in our assessment and management of risk? The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no and sometimes it’s hard to say. Each of these cases will be reviewed using examples from innovations in food production.


Paul B. Thompson

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University, where he also is a faculty member in the departments of Philosophy; Community Sustainability; and Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. He has served in an advisory role to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and Genome Canada as well as to farm producer groups. His research explores ethical issues arising across the spectrum of food production, distribution and consumption, including biotechnology, animal welfare and food security. Trained in philosophy, Thompson is a two-time winner of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Award for Excellence in Communication. His book From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone (Oxford, 2015) was selected as “Book of the Year” by the North American Society for Social Philosophy.