Novel Foods and Consumer Rights: Concerning Food Policy in a Liberal State

Author: Rippe, K.P.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Volume 12, Number 1, 2000 , pp. 71-80(10)

Publisher: Springer

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In the public debate concerning novel foods, some consumer groups claim a consumer right to have access to certain kinds of food in the market. To discuss such statements, the paper identifies the reasons that may justify liberal states to regulate food. Although it defends certain paternalistic activities, it favours an autonomy-centred food policy. Autonomy and consumer sovereignty require that certain conditions are fulfilled. It may be argued that one such condition is that the consumer should have choices. Against this position, the paper defends the view that liberty rights to choose are limited to areas which are of great importance for personal identity and the good life. Local decisions in the area of food consumption do not have such importance, though global ones may have it. But even if this were true, government activity to protect such liberties should be limited to the guarantee of formal conditions for the good life of persons. It is not a legitimate task of the government to safeguard specific conceptions of the good life.

Keywords: Consumer rights; autonomy; food policy; novel food; paternalism

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Ethics Centre, University of Zurich, Zollikerstr. 117, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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