The Right to Know What I’m Eating


  • Prop 37 was defeated November 2012 on the California ballot by a narrow margin. But there has been fall-out from this with GM labeling initiatives (introduction of bills/legislation) in many states in the US. One bill died in New York but another labeling law was passed in Connecticut. This issue is not going away. The impetus behind labeling of GMOs is “right to know.”
  • In this blog post, Chris MacDonald, a Toronto-based ethicist, professor, speaker and consultant, discusses “right to know” and legal vs moral rights (dated September 2010). Thanks, Chris, for letting me post this to my blog. Very informative!

Other related post by Chris: Should Companies Label GM Foods?

  • Chris MacDonald, Ph.D., is an educator, speaker, and consultant in the realm of business ethics. He teaches at the Ted Rogers School of Management, at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he is Director of the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Education & Research Program, at the Ted Rogers Leadership Centre.

The Food Ethics Blog

Magna CartaIn the debate over the labelling (or non-labelling) of genetically-modified foods, one of the most common refrains is that consumers “have a right to know” what they’re eating. I’ve commented briefly on that here before. (See “Should Companies Label Genetically Modified Foods?”) But it’s an important and complicated topic, so I’m going to say a little more here.

We first need to distinguish legal from moral rights. Legal rights are established through legislation or through precedents set by courts. But when people say they have a “right to know” what they’re eating, they’re not usually referring to a legal right (especially given that, as far as genetic modification goes, there just is no such legal right in the U.S. or Canada). No, when people say they have a right to know what they’re eating, they’re talking about a moral right to that information — they mean that it is…

View original post 1,225 more words

2 thoughts on “The Right to Know What I’m Eating

  1. I want my food labeled because I want to control which companies I am buying from. I don’t shop at Walmart. That’s easy, I just don’t walk through their doors. I don’t want to buy from biotech companies, I disagree with their policies and that is my choice and my business. I don’t have to defend it. I want to know what is in my food so that I can make informed choices about how I spend MY money.
    If the biotech industry had nothing to hide, they’d simply allow labels. If there’s no problem here and a lot of people want labels, there is no valid reason not to do it.

    • This whole thing is a bit of a conundrum… so complex. The value chain from lab to fork is comprised of many actors (not just biotech companies and Walmart). So the implications for labels is broad. It’s just not as simple as slapping a label on a can. Also, labels (by law) can’t be misleading; they must provide consumers with accurate information.

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