A more ethical food and agricultural system must incorporate concern for three widely accepted global goals: improved well-being, protection of the environment and public health.
Poverty remains the single most important cause of human misery in the world today. Participants in an ethical food and agricultural system would work towards the reduction and eventual elimination of poverty by enhancing economic efficiency and effectiveness in food and agriculture worldwide. In so doing, production efficiency (the most efficient means of producing a given good) must be balanced with distribution efficiency (the most efficient means of distributing goods). Moreover, efficiency cannot be judged solely by relative cost within a particular economic system. It must also include an examination of the system of rights, privileges and institutions according to which efficiency is defined. Similarly, effectiveness cannot be defined as merely the ability to accomplish a particular task, but must question the appropriateness of the means selected in light of ethical concerns such as fairness and justice.
In addition, efficiency and effectiveness cannot be promoted at the expense of economic interdependence, individual freedom, human rights, or state sovereignty. Instead, efficiency must contribute to these goals. Put differently, an ethical food and agriculture system must help citizens, communities, nations and the world as whole move from a global economy towards a truly global society. In that society interdependence is recognized as inescapable, each individual is granted personal autonomy and dignity, and states are able to maintain their sovereignty. An ethical food and agriculture system must also move from free trade, in which powerful interests are able to impose their rules in the marketplace, to a rules-based trading system in which processes are put in place for a participatory mode by which rules are established and implemented.
Protection of the environment
Viewed from a global perspective, food is not currently produced in the places or ways that best conserve natural resources. In the past, global agricultural production tended to mirror the dietary patterns and living standards of local populations. This pattern is rapidly changing worldwide, with increasing urbanization, market penetration and trade. In order to maintain an ethical food and agricultural system, biological efficiency (through enhanced production, processing and distribution of food and agricultural products) and agrobiological diversity must be reconciled with economic efficiency (whereby food is produced with a minimum of resource use, thus limiting the pressure on the environment and making food affordable for the poor). Careful consideration needs to be given to the management of the trade-offs between the objectives of food security and environment protection. Integrated pest management and integrated resource management in agriculture, forestry and fisheries should not be considered luxuries; if an ethical food and agricultural system is to be passed on to future generations, they are necessities.
Greater public health
Despite some improvements over the last several decades, far too large a portion of the world's population suffers from poor health brought on by hunger, malnutrition and poor diet and unsafe food and water. These problems diminish the ability of people to participate fully in the daily affairs of their community, nation and the world. Moreover, large-scale industrialization of agriculture and food processing pose new health threats when they are not properly monitored and controlled. In an ethical food and agricultural system, issues of hunger, malnutrition, diet and food safety would be aggressively addressed, so the world would rapidly reach a point at which everyone has access to an abundant, nutritionally adequate and safe diet. This will require i) policies that provide incentives for distributional changes to reduce inequalities in access to food; ii) scientific research to develop more efficient, safer means of food production, processing and distribution; iii) rural development to promote and develop sources of clean drinking-water and to encourage the use of safe food handling practices; and iv) the use and enforcement of adequate safeguards and safety standards in the deployment of new products.