Global Food Ethics & Policy

Addressing critical global issues of under- and over-nutrition and diet-related diseases, poverty, inequity and injustice across the food system, and environmental degradation caused by agriculture.

The Global Food Ethics and Policy Program serves as a focal point for deepening Johns Hopkins collaborations and partnerships, convening experts and leaders to shape policy, as well as connecting scholars and scientists to the societal players that are shaping the global food system.

Overview

The Challenge

By 2050, the global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion people, increasing the demand for food and creating unprecedented stresses on the environment, natural resources, and ecosystems. How will we nourish 9.6 billion people in ways that align with positive social, health, environmental, and economic outcomes for all. The challenges are complex:

  • Currently, 800 million people are chronically or acutely hungry and another 2.1 billion are overweight or obese.
  • The global food system challenges ecosystem diversity and food production is the major emitter of greenhouse gases and the largest user of water resources.
  • The food system is challenged by a range of factors, including rapid urbanization, population pressures, geopolitical conflict, and the variability of climate and surge in extreme weather events.

Our Response

The Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics and Policy Program fosters Johns Hopkins collaborations and partnerships, convenes experts and leaders to shape policy, and connects scholars and scientists with the societal players who are shaping the global food system. It is a collaboration of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The project addresses critical global issues related to the global food system:

  • Under- and over-nutrition and diet-related diseases
  • Poverty, inequity, and injustice across the food system
  • Environmental degradation caused by agriculture

History

This Program evolved from the 3-year Global Food Ethics Project, launched in 2012 by the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Its goal was to take on the challenge of working through conflicting visions of what it means to feed the world ethically and find a concrete path forward even in the absence of consensus about ethical commitments and values. The main product of the Global Food Ethics Project was the 7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security (May 2015), which put forward seven projects to make progress on ethics and global food security in five years. Four of these projects currently comprise the following 7 by 5 project ideas:

1. Ethical Challenges in Projections of Global Food Demand, Supply, and Prices (see Current Projects)
2. The Food Sovereignty Movement and the Exceptionality of Food and Agriculture
3. The Case for the Professionalization of Farming
4. Global Agricultural Research and Development: Ethics, Priorities, and Funders
5. Climate-Smart and Climate-Just Agriculture (see Current Projects)
6. Ethics of Meat Consumption in High-Income and Middle-Income Countries
7. Choose Food (see Current Projects)

For more details on the project and its products, visit The Global Food Ethics Project.

Goals & Focus Areas

Goals

Education

We are preparing the next generation of educators, policymakers, and development practitioners who will be leaders in sustainable food systems and ethics. The program reflects global trends and drivers across increasingly interconnected food systems. Courses include:

Research

We generate and disseminate new scientific evidence and ethics scholarship relevant related to food systems and challenges they face: climate and environment, social equity and justice, population growth, rapid urbanization and transformation.

Policy and Development

We provide guidance on ethical, political, social, health and nutrition issues connected to food systems. We are actively working to create innovative and sustainable solutions for more equitable food security.

Collaborative Approach

Our unique niche is a trans-disciplinary approach that integrates perspectives from science, ethics, policy, and practice. We are working with partners to provide on-the-ground solutions and ensure that policymakers, farmers, and communities benefit from the best science and technology. Toward our ultimate goal is to build sustainable food systems, we will engage with the agriculture, ecology, health, and nutrition communities, civil society, social movements, and industry to capitalize on opportunities to share resources across sectors and minimize trade-offs. By working across disciplines and sectors, the we identify and investigate research questions at the frontier of the complex, often ethical issues underlying food system sustainability.

Thematic Focus Areas

We are working to generate solutions that address food system challenges while shedding light on how to feed the world well and ethically. Our research, education, and policy work spans four thematic areas:

Agriculture and Food Systems

Each year, it becomes more and more difficult for agriculture to achieve its primary objective: feeding the world. Population growth and changes in diet associated with rising incomes drive greater demand for food and other agricultural products. At the same time, global food systems are increasingly threatened by land degradation, climate change, and other stressors. There are uncertainties about regional and local impacts of climate change, but the overall global pattern suggests that the stability of the food system will be at significant risk due to short-term variability in food supplies. Our research seeks to inform policy action on locally relevant, ethically defensible solutions that can be implemented in a range of settings, including small- and large-scale farming in the rural context, and the connections between of rural and urban center food systems.

Related Projects:

Sustainable Development Goal 2: Policy Research

Environment and Climate

How will increased food production to meet the demand for diverse diets affect the environment? The global food system is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, contributing 34% of the total. Ways to decrease emissions from deforestation, agricultural practices, and the processing, transport, and waste of food are among the most important challenges we face. We are working with regional, and national partners and other stakeholders around ethical issues related to these challenges. These collaborations seek to establish innovative, ethically sensitive metrics and models to understand how changes in supply and demand influence indicators of environmental and ecosystem health.

Related Projects:

Conflict & Food and Water Resources

Nutrition and Health

As many as two billion people worldwide are affected by either obesity or chronic undernutrition. This arises from urbanization, demographic shifts, and changing dietary and lifestyle patterns. Increasing rates of obesity have become a public health crisis and require an urgent response. Increasing rates of obesity increase demands on both food and public health systems. Well-crafted responses from local farmers, international health workers, the global food industry, and governments are badly needed, but some possible responses raise challenging ethical issues. Many countries still face a significant burden of chronic undernutrition of young children, adolescent girls, and women, which require social justice action. We focus on food-based solutions, as well as global research and policy that place nutrition within a wider framework for development focused on equity.

Related Projects:

Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture & Livelihoods

Healthy, Sustainable Diets and Food Systems

Global Nutrition Report (GNR)

Ethics, Social Justice and Democracy

Ethics is at the heart of the debate about feeding the world well and sustainably. At its core, this debate engages a range of compelling ethical values. These values are vast in scope and include:

  • In the area of human welfare, ethical values focus on promoting individual and public health; assuring economic wellbeing; and respecting individual freedoms and cultural traditions, including the need to engage an active citizenry and food social movements that foster collective control over food and agricultural policy.
  • In the area of planetary and animal wellbeing, ethical values include protection of the environment and minimization of animal suffering. These values can challenge potential solutions.

Health burdens, such as undernutrition and overweight and obesity, and the effects of climate change and environmental degradation tend to fall disproportionately on the world’s most disadvantaged people and groups—including poor women and children and the rural poor. The complexity of these issues underscores the need to pay careful, scholarly attention to the ethics both of the current state of the global food system and of any proposals to improve it. To illuminate the full ethical landscape of food issues, we must upon ethical theory, political and social philosophy, justice theory, and philosophy of science.

Related Projects:

Beef, Food Choices, and Values

Choose Food

Global Food Ethics Project

Projects

Current Projects

Beef, Food Choices, and Values

Duration: 2017 – 2020

Principal Investigator:

  • Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Co-investigators:

  • Elizabeth Fox, Hecht-Levi Fellow, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University
  • Anne Barnhill, PhD, Research Scholar, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
  • Travis Rieder, PhD, Research Scholar, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Choose Food

Principal Investigator:

Alan Goldberg, PhD, Professor of Toxicology; Founding Director (Emeritus), Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Conflict & Food and Water Resources

Duration: 2016 – 2018

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Co-investigator:

Elizabeth Fox, Hecht-Levi Fellow, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University

Global Nutrition Report (GNR)

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Past Projects

Healthy, Sustainable Diets and Food Systems

Duration: 2014 – 2016

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Sustainable Development Goal 2: Policy Research

Duration: 2017

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Accelerating Nutrition Improvements (ANI)

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Planetary Boundaries of Global Animal Food Production and Consumption: Decision-Making Tools for Social Change in Diverse Food Systems

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Co-Principal Investigator:

Laura Caulfield, PhD, Professor, Program in Human Nutrition, Center for Human Nutrition and Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture & Livelihoods

In partnership with George Washington University
Duration: 2013 – 2017

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Fanzo, PhD, Principal Investigator, Director, Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics & SAIS

Co-investigator:

Shauna Downs, Hecht-Levi Fellow, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University

Ethics, Politics, Knowledge and Our Planet’s Food Futures

Duration: May 2016 – April 2017

Principal Investigator:

Yashar Saghai, MA, PhD, Principal Investigator, Hecht-Levi Post-Doctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Publications

Newly Published:

Springmann, M., Clark, M., Mason-D’Croz, D., Wiebe, K., Bodirsky, B.L., Lassaletta, L., de Vries, W., Vermeulen, S.J., Herrero, M., Carlson, K.M., Jonell, M., Troell, M., DeClerck, F., Gordon, L.J., Zurayk, R., Scarborough, P., Rayner, M., Loken, B., Fanzo, J., Godfray, H.C.J., Tilman, D., Rockstrom, J., and Willett, W. 2018. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limitsNature, p.1.

Fanzo, J., 2018. The Ethics of Food in the Health System ArchitectureAMA Journal of Ethics20(10), pp.913-917.

Morain, S. and Barnhill, A., 2018. Do Infant Formula Giveaways Undermine or Support Women’s Choices?AMA Journal of Ethics20(10), pp.924-931.

Civita, N., 2018. How Should Physicians Help Patients Who Are Ill Because They Work in Agriculture?AMA Journal of Ethics20(10), pp.932-940.

Walker, A.K. and Fox, E.L., 2018. Why Marginalization, Not Vulnerability, Can Best Identify People in Need of Special Medical and Nutrition CareAMA Journal of Ethics20(10), pp.941-947.

Fanzo, J., 2018. Does Global Goal Setting Matter for Nutrition and Health?AMA Journal of Ethics20(10), pp.979-986.

Fox, E.L., Davis, C., Downs, S.M., Schultink, W. and Fanzo, J., 2018. Who is the Woman in Women’s Nutrition? A Narrative Review of Evidence and Actions to Support Women’s Nutrition Throughout LifeCurrent Developments in Nutrition.

Participating Berman Faculty and Staff

Jessica Fanzo, PhD
Core Faculty; Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Global Food & Agricultural Policy and Ethics
Ruth R. Faden, PhD, MPH
Berman Institute Founder; Core Faculty; Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics
Anne Barnhill, PhD
Associate Faculty; Research Scholar
Travis N. Rieder, PhD
Director of the MBE Program; Assistant Director for Education Initiatives; Associate Faculty; Research Scholar
Elizabeth Fox
Hecht-Levi Fellow
Rebecca McLaren, MD, MPH
Associate Faculty; Research Associate
Claire Davis
Research Program Coordinator
Cara Wychgram
Research Program Coordinator
Kelly Whalen
Senior Administrative Coordinator