Autonomy, values, and food choice

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History and Philosophy


In most areas of our lives, legal protections are in place to ensure that we have autonomous control over what happens in and to our bodies. However, there are fewer protections in place for autonomous choice when it comes to the food we purchase and consume. In fact, the current trend in US legislation is pushing us away from autonomous food choice. In this paper, I discuss two examples of this trend: corporate resistance to GM labeling laws and farm protection laws (often called “ag-gag” laws). These examples are quite different from a legislative point of view. In one case, laws that would promote autonomous choice are actively resisted, whereas in the other case, laws that undermine autonomy are enacted. The common core of the two examples is the effect: in both cases, we are unable to determine whether the food we purchase and consume is consistent with our values. In both cases, then, autonomous choice about the food we purchase and put into our bodies is undermined.

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