Democratic Principles and Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 223-248, 2004

14 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2009  

Robert Streiffer

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Philosophy; University of Wisconsin - Madison - School of Medicine and Public Health

Alan Rubel

University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Library and Information Studies; University of Wisconsin, Madison - Program in Legal Studies

Date Written: July 14, 2004

Abstract

Despite the fact that public opinion overwhelmingly supports mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods, the FDA recently reaffirmed its original 1992 decision not to require labels, claiming that there is no scientific basis for concluding that GE food are less healthful than others foods. In this paper, we give two arguments about how this conflict between public opinion and the FDA ought to be resolved. The first is the Consumer Autonomy Argument, which applies to the FDA and appeals to moral principles about how public agencies within a democracy should exercise their discretion. We argue that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) gives the FDA the discretion to require labels, and that the FDA has a moral and democratic obligation to exercise that discretion so as to require labeling. The second is the Democratic Equality Argument, which applies to Congress and concerns its democratic responsibility to defer to public opinion on certain kinds of issues. We conclude that if the FDA fails to require labeling, Congress should.

Keywords: genetically engineered foods, labeling, environmental ethics, democratic theory

Suggested Citation

Streiffer, Robert and Rubel, Alan, Democratic Principles and Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods (July 14, 2004). Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 223-248, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1473226

Robert Streiffer

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Philosophy ( email )

5185 Helen C. White Hall
600 North Park Street
Madison, WI 53706
United States

HOME PAGE: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/streiffer/

University of Wisconsin - Madison - School of Medicine and Public Health ( email )

Madison, WI 53711
United States

Alan P. Rubel (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Library and Information Studies ( email )

4217 HC WHite
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

University of Wisconsin, Madison - Program in Legal Studies ( email )

4217 HC WHite
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

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