Program Overview

Goals | Thematic Focus Areas | History



We prepare the next generation of educators, policymakers, and development practitioners to be leaders in sustainable food systems and ethics. The program reflects global trends across increasingly interconnected food systems.

Courses Offered


We generate and disseminate new scientific evidence and ethics scholarship relevant to food systems, including the challenges of climate and environment, social equity and justice, and population growth and rapid urbanization.


We provide guidance on ethical, political, social, health, and nutrition issues connected to food systems. We work to create innovative and sustainable solutions that achieve more equitable food security.


Our trans-disciplinary approach integrates perspectives from science, ethics, policy, and practice. We work with partners to provide on-the-ground solutions and ensure that policymakers, farmers, and communities benefit from the best science and technology. To make progress toward the ultimate goal of building sustainable food systems, we engage with policymakers, civil society, industry, and the agriculture, ecology, health, and nutrition communities. By working across disciplines and sectors, we can share resources and minimize trade-offs. We aim to identify and investigate complex ethical issues and research questions underlying food system sustainability.

Thematic Focus Areas

We work to generate solutions that address food system challenges and provide insight 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 increasingly difficult for agriculture to achieve its primary objective of feeding the world. Population growth, rising incomes, and changes in diet drive 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. The regional and local impacts of climate change are uncertain, but global patterns suggest that the short-term variability in food supplies will threaten the stability of the food system. 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 rural contexts.
Related Projects:

Sustainable Development Goal 2: Policy Research

Environment and Climate

The demand for diverse diets will require an increase in food production, but how will this affect the environment? The global food system is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), contributing more than one-third of all GHG emissions. Finding ways to limit emissions from deforestation, agricultural practices, and the processing, transport, and waste of food is a major challenge for humanity. We work with regional and national partners, and well as other stakeholders, on 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

Worldwide, more than two billion people are affected by malnutrition, which includes undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity. Many countries still face a significant burden of chronic undernutrition among young children, adolescent girls, and women. Rising rates of obesity have significantly increased demands on food and public health systems. Urbanization, demographic shifts, and changing dietary and lifestyle patterns act as drivers of malnutrition. The challenges of malnutrition warrant an urgent response from farmers, the global food industry, governments, and other stakeholders, but some approaches raise challenging ethical issues. We focus on global research and policy that places nutrition within a wider framework for equitable development.

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 relevant to both human welfare and planetary well-being:

  • promotion of individual and public health
  • assurance of economic wellbeing
  • respect for individual freedoms and cultural traditions, including the need to engage an active citizenry and social movements that foster collective control over food and agricultural policy
  • protection of the environment
  • minimization of animal suffering

Health burdens and the effects of climate change and environmental degradation tend to fall disproportionately on the world’s most disadvantaged people and groups—including women, children, and the rural poor. The complexity of these issues underscores the need to pay careful attention to the ethics of our current global food system and any proposals to improve it. Ethical theory, political and social philosophy, justice theory, and the philosophy of science can help illuminate the full ethical landscape of food issues.

Related Projects:

Beef, Food Choices, and Values

Choose Food

Global Food Ethics Project


This Program evolved from the three-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. It aimed to address conflicting visions of what it means to feed the world ethically and identify a 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 proposed seven projects to make progress on ethics and global food security within five years:

1. Ethical Challenges in Projections of Global Food Demand, Supply, and Prices
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
6. Ethics of Meat Consumption in High-Income and Middle-Income Countries
7. Choose Food