MULTIFUNCTIONALITY AND ETHICS ARE BOTH UNAVOIDABLE
The purpose of this article is to help all thoughtful agriculturalists, but especially researchers, feel comfortable about the use of ethics, to the extent of even using it using it themselves, in handling the multiple and often conflicting demands, the multifunctionality, which portions of the public are pressing upon agriculture. There is no question that for three or four decades pressures have been brought to bear upon farming and those who serve it in any capacity to widen the list of tasks to which agriculture should be devoted. And one tool sometimes used to press those demands is an appeal to ethics. This appeal can appear to suggest that agriculturalists have been ethically negligent. Every agricultural ethicist (all dozen or so) knows by experience how poorly received that suggestion is. Agriculture is a vocation or profession which prides itself on the unquestionable value, even nobility, of its work. And without the help of any academic ethicist, they know that it is ethical to work energetically in the pursuit of things of great value to mankind. One readily grants that human medicine needs some sophisticated ethical reasoning. The simplicity of healing has long been lost with the realization that too much medical attention is almost as bad as too little and that HMOs have conflicting goals. And a confusing “multifunctionality” has been pressed on medical science as it is asked for cures for things that aren’t diseases, help with eternal youth, good looks, good shape without exercise, and better offspring than natural, and finally help with killing the tired of life and the untried of life. And that business and commerce needs ethical re-examination no one doubts. But agriculture? Given the obvious and urgent natural value of food, fiber and forest products, if an academic ethicist so much as clears his or her throat while reviewing the basic business of farming and its allied technology and science, the inferred hint of ethical deficiency in the agricultural enterprise causes immediate bristling.
The present author sometimes feels that a suitable answer to the ethical confusions which surround medicine these days would be to say. “Don’t take on the new multifunctionality, especially the killing. The value of life and the trust needed to employ its often distressing tools conflict with any permission to kill.”
But for agriculture? Is it not abundantly clear and simple that its overarching value and purpose is to grow things for human use? Who needs ethics to complicate that simplicity? Who needs an ethics concocted by a profession, philosophy, decorated with practitioners not especially known for preaching any really self-recommending ethics, let alone practicing them? 
Which brings me to three sub-purposes in this essay, to offer answers to whether agriculture should be multifunctional and how/when the currently disputatious multifunctionality came into being and finally why did a new discipline of agricultural ethics get selected to organize if not settle the disputes.
Contemporary neo-classical agricultural economists are
exasperated by the so-called Jeffersonian
ideal, as if it were an ideal farm, overlooking that Jefferson imagined
that a principal value of such farms was to underpin an ideal democracy with
hard-working independently minded and independently supported citizens who
would more easily avoid the vices, civic and personal, of an urban laboring
class. In other words, agriculture’s function was dual: to produce solid
citizens as well as food. That
· A theme will emerge from this essay that “multifunctional” value conflicts within agriculture will arise largely out of the means used for agricultural production and not solely out of the ends. And from this we can expect that any mature agricultural ethics will have to offer principles which can guide the choice of means and the policies surrounding alternative ways of farming.
Although the name “agricultural ethics” might wait
two centuries, enough ethically complex good and bad multifunctionalities
were born the day our nation’s leaders saw farming as fit topic for deliberate
policy. John Adams on his debt-free but not yet large farm at
The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth , that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are the grounds of hope for others…. (McCullough, 2001, 645), 
a lesson in farm economics, the freeing of
As contemporary Midwestern farmers are further displaced by huge pork and poultry operations, many of them are aware that their labor is valued at the price of the minimum wage immigrant worker without health benefits or union protection. Having tax payers pick up the health costs of these workers is one “efficiency” of such operations. Animal welfare, environmental and community survival advocates wonder whether agricultural economists have given an honest accounting of other such “efficiencies.” Adams and Jefferson would wonder too. Is a socially just farm sector one of agriculture’s functions?
More directly production related
issues arose early both in Adam’s
Soil erosion concerns and the value to be
protected, soil conservation, arose early with terraces appearing in Virginia
in the early 1800’s By 1899 the USDA began issuing reports on soil erosion.(Trimble,
There is a logic to the birth of new functions in agriculture: It is only when a value is being destroyed
that a sense of moral urgency to act in defense of the value arises. Many
values are implicit and only need to be actively cultivated when their good is
positively threatened. So when “dust-bowl”
farm soil coated the shiny black cars of congressmen in
Nevertheless the tensions between soil scientists and production scientists are historic. It is not entirely an accident that in many agriculture schools early soil scientists, who originally, due to Justus Liebig, referred to themselves as chemists, were housed with their laboratories among the non-ag science faculty.
· A second theme emerges from this history: Multiple values with the multiple functions they command always have a potential for conflict, no matter how deeply connected and interdependent they are.
Following the logic of threats to implicit values begetting new explicit functions, agriculturalists were well aware of the nearly primitive conditions of rural life and its frequent grinding poverty. The 1887 amendments to the Hatch Act explicitly allowed research into the social aspect of agriculture beyond its concern for plant and animal production.(Pinkett, 1984, 367) But it was a largely non-rural and religiously motivated compassionate Country Life movement which concerned itself with the arduous character of farm and rural life at the turn of the century.(Kirkendall, 1987, 86)  Theodore Roosevelt was inspired by this movement to establish the County Life Commission in August of 1908. It lacked the time and the courage to look at the peonage system in the South as suggested by W.E. B. DuBois,(Pinkett, 1984, 356)  but nevertheless its report at the end of January of the following year was, in the words of Clayton Ellsworth, the “first recognition by a federal agency that the production of more excellent citizens on the farm was at least as important as the production of more, bigger and better hogs and cotton, and that the current emphasis upon more scientific production would not solve a host of farm problems.”(Ellsworth, 1960, 156 and Pinkett, ibid.) 
Of course what the do-gooders saw was not an
absence of research but a starkly distressing rural life only short buggy rides
from their homes where no indoor plumbing or electric lights and very little
money and health care were the rule. What motivated them was also what inspired
many of the founders of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics(BAE) in the USDA,
a mix of genuine religious motivation to alleviate human suffering with a
social Darwinist view that only improved conditions of rural life and farming
could keep the best racial and cultural types on the land.(McDean,
1983,71 and 1984, 392)
Henry C. Taylor took over the Office of Farm Management in April of 1919 and by
1922 had formed the new BAE, a process which involved replacing all the old
agronomists with top flight academic economists.(McDean,
1983, 73). It was not just new tools and new credentials which were sought. It
was a much more vigorous and embracing social/economic agenda, an agenda we
might find offensive today in its goal recasting rural
The rural crises brought on by falling farm prices in the 1920’s and by the depression made this concern for farm life a permanent fixture and popular with legislators who still had significant farm populations. The Purnell Act of 1925 explicitly included research to improve farm homes and rural life. Farm population actually grew from 1930 to 1933, but then a steady decline set in. The New Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) device of production controls as well as the conservation set-asides of the Soil Conservation Service were both aimed at preserving family farms. Other agencies, such as the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration used other devices to help farmers with too little land or who did not own their land to improve their lot and stay on the land.
But then, perhaps because farm population became a
smaller proportion of the
So where did agricultural ethics come from amid
all this? It was not yet ready to appear. There is no question but that
agricultural economics ought to have functioned as the “bridging” discipline in
agriculture among its unavoidable
multiple functions and disciplines. It alone possessed the tools, the
traditions and motivations to arbitrate conflicts and seek outcomes for the
human good. It was too obvious to everyone that over-production was a constant
threat, exacerbated by modernization. And agricultural economics ought to have
led the way to designing policies which could protect the rural sector, ease
the transition to modernity, preserve what could survive in the agrarian ideal
and resist policies which gave artificial “pecuniary efficiency” (efficiencies
solely on monetary/tax policies and not on any actual farming resource
efficiency) to already huge farm operations. The harm to smaller farmers,
especially black farmers was clear.(Brown, 1986, 112-119)
The shift toward larger and fewer farms became dramatic and received an
antiseptic name: “the structural problem.” Of the two values (goals) which
were happening which would soon require more than that. One of them was the
dramatic drop in farm population to around 4% of the nation in the 1970’s down
from 23% in 1940. The need for farm kids to stay on the farm dropped with
mechanization and so did the need for these kids to go to agricultural schools.
But city kids were getting interested in agriculture in the 60’s and 70’s
partly because some horrendous famines were occurring world-wide, which along
with a devout Hubert Humphrey, they hoped American agriculture could cure. The schools were happy to accept them.
Meanwhile, in 1962, Rachel Carson had begun serializing in The New Yorker what was to become Silent Spring. This famous
attack on the side effects of modern agriculture in its use of pesticides and
herbicides was not well received by agricultural academia, which tried to
suppress essentially the same information by one of its own wildlife
biologists, Robert L. Rudd in his Pesticides and the Living Landscape.(1964)
 Carson’s first installment made some insightful administrative reader in
the University of California nervous who then called the university’s Science Guide and instructed its editor
to omit further references to Carson’s series. But Rudd’s work finally was
published by the
And so did some farmers, who found the costs of pesticides and herbicides skyrocketting. There must be some way of farming which can reduce those costs, and since production is not their economic goal, but rather net income, some reduction in yield is bearable. Pressure from legislatures had to be brought to bear on some ag schools to find ways to reduce toxic chemical applications through a more scientifically informed approach which received the name “integrated pest management” (IPM). Early IPM programs were no more easily accepted than soil science was before and constant accusations of the work as being “soft science” (a earlier, less frantic form of “pseudo-science” attacks today) were heard.
Environmental values, like all values, might as well not exist if they do not have a strong constituency and in short order the nature lovers were joined by consumers as EPA mandated animal feeding tests of popular biocides showed considerable chronic as well as acute toxicity for vertebrates. The EPA set up the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) in 1970 to oversee the safety evaluation of agricultural chemicals. The short story is most of the chemicals are not safe, they are toxic and therefore risky to use, to have in the environment or on our food. So, as the National Research Council (NRC) summary, Regulating Pesticides (NRC, 1980) puts it, the issue is one of weighing those risks against the benefits. Economists, at the time, were drafting some rather unconvincing formats for risk/benefit analysis and evaluation. To be fair, it is hard to imagine how any format would have been workable even if a convincing one were found. As the NRC described the issue: “The benefits are largely, but not entirely, an increase in the availability of foods and natural fibers and a reduction in the amounts of resources needed to produce them. … The benefits, for the most part, are the monetary equivalent of economic resources.” These benefits are to be weighed against the risks of pesticides which include “increases in [human] mortality and morbidity and impairment of environmental vitality and amenities of all kinds.” Wisely this NRC report recognized that this would not really be an “economic” calculation, as it goes on to say, “[T]he risks concern depends partly on the [EPA] Administrator’s personal scale of values and partly on his or her perception of the values held by the society in whose behalf he or she acts. That is to say, it is partly a moral and partly a political judgment.” [Emphasis added.](NRC, 1980, 3) More than one reader would summarize this as: “They are asking us to accept small amounts of poison in our foods to save themselves production costs.” And to admit to such thoughts is to be identified as an “activist.”
Without needing any ethicist to point it out, agriculturalists always knew that their moral, i.e. ethical, responsibility in their vocation was the production of healthy (nutritious and not poisonous) food, in the same way that doctors knew they should not cause sickness in curing. But now, like doctors who became convinced, after Semmelweis and Lister, that clean looking hands could carry deadly infection and needed careful washing between each patient, agriculturalists now had a new explicit value to pursue: food cleanliness. But unlike medicine’s decision to avoid any and all known sources of infection danger, agriculture was allowed a different standard which quickly dropped any effort to measure benefits and simply tried to minimize risk by a system of tolerated levels of toxicity on foods. The benefits, successful suppression of pests, were assumed to both exist, and to be known by farmers. Among the benefits was not seriously included any social need for increased production, but only reduced production management/costs.
That the food-safety issue is a kind of uncomfortable multifunctionality (which is not to suggest that farmers don’t care whether their food is safe) is illustrated by how the benefits to farmers were treated. EPA abandoned fairly early on any mandatory reporting of the “efficacy”(whether it killed the pests)of compounds , and when, in testing for safety under EPA contracts, university researchers who discovered little or no efficacy found no ear at EPA. EPA was not interested in benefits, which left economists nothing to calculate and ethicists much to wonder about (NRC 1987, 32). Meanwhile the foundations for organic agriculture had been laid.
As early as the mid sixties, even fairly
unsophisticated agricultural school adminstrators
became aware that the nobility of USAID task of agricultural development in
developing countries which their institutions were leading were often not
justified by the motto “Teach a man how to fish and you alleviate his hunger
for life.” Too often it was “Lend a man a lot of money to buy a huge net and soon
he will be shipping fish back to the
One way to excise multifunctionality from the soul of agriculture would be to
declare its tools and policies “value neutral.” The “value neutral” approach
was common, as noted above, by economists. Dealing with the issue of farm size,
the literature on new farm technologies and policies contained claims to “scale
neutrality”, i.e. not favoring large farms over smaller farms. Family farmers did not see it that way. In
domestic agriculture the “structural” shift continued unabated. Eventually
small farmers and farm workers sued the
A thriving statewide “
What this history reveals is that values implicit in agriculture or impacted by its tools become “new” values to be positively pursued as explicit functions of the agricultural enterprise when those values are clearly endangered, or at least clearly obvious to some adequately vocal constituency. Such multifunctionality would produce tensions and conflicts in any profession or vocation, so it is not surprising that annoyance and nostalgic desires for greater simplicity are expressed in agriculture. Current events mirror this historic pattern, as consumer constituencies oppose genetically modified foods and/or seek their labeling, environmental constituencies press agriculture to protect clean air, animal welfare interests press for more humane living conditions for meat animals, or on the other hand, corporate constituencies enlist the USDA in producing genetic infertility in farmers’ seeds in the pursuit of the value of “intellectual property.” In one way or another exquisite reasoning will find infertility of a food crop an agricultural value. Like the earlier capturing of agricultural biotechnology research by corporations interested in enhancing their pesticide market, detailed by Martin Kenney (1988), “terminator technologies” simply reveal what can hardly be considered a scandal, namely that new functions are effectively introduced by new (or old) constituencies who have means and motives to make those functions congruent with the institutional or personal needs of those who will have to work at those functions. And, as we have seen, the motives can range from the common sense of maintaining the soil and keeping food clean to deeply religious convictions about social justice, environmental integrity and animal welfare. But all too often the only effective means to increase or decrease multifunctionality is politics resulting in legislation or financial incentives which promote or sustain research and development in certain directions.
This review is not aimed at a cynical acceptance of policy chaos in agriculture but rather to finally raise the point of whether there are tools to introduce some reasoned order into this chaos. Astute social scientists warned me, in the early 1980’s, not to become co-opted by those who hoped to construct the perfect risk/benefit analysis into the toxics issue, and cost/benefit analysis into the “structural” (family farm) question. Such schemes were efforts to resolve serious social conflicts with “bureaucratic rationality” which too often meant simply arbitrary removals of the losers from the debate. Others, like Lawrence Busch and William Lacy, went in a more humane direction of full negotiations concerning conflicting values with the broadest representation of truly impacted parties. Agricultural Economics needed to play a role, but “efficient use of resources” was way too limited in its ignoring of flesh and blood as Patrick Madden liked to point out.(Madden, 1991 PAGE?) And that “negotiations” could fail in that way too, I realized in Congress in 1981 as I and some idealistic lawyers stood with dropped jaws as a representative of a pesticide lobby argued with a congressman over whether it was fair to legislate for a full medical investigation in a pesticide incident where only one farmworker went “down.” He proposed instead that six “downs” was more fair, and called the lawyers’ shock simply evidence that they had not been out of law school long enough and did not know how “democracy” worked.
In this story you see the birth of an agricultural ethicist. Negotiations are critical in a civil society, but are there not some universal principles about what is right or at least what is least harmful? Ethics does not create values, nor does it mandate the priorities among them. But as one of many “definitions” of ethics, the science of those actions which tend toward human happiness, indicates ethics does recognize values and proposes norms to secure them. Clearly an agricultural ethics will not normally be so broadly conceived as to take on the responsibility of leading a society toward happiness. Its ethics will deal with its values: food and the means of production. But if someone proposes that the convenient use and regulation of agriculture requires that we treat seriously serious harm and death in farm workers only when six have been harmed in a single incident, a norm will have been established which will make all of us very unhappy in the long run, to say nothing of the workers’ families in the short run, as the outcome of tolerating enslaved farm workers made clear. Denying any formal status to the investigation and systematization of norms in agriculture, such as that invoked by the Supreme Court in 1980 in its Benzene Case : Part of the cost of doing business is the cost of doing business safely, suggests some sort of “moral inferiority” in agriculture. When an agriculture dean came to review an agriculture ethics course we were building in the mid 1980’s he asked: “Why agriculture? Why now? Is there some special scandal you and your colleagues (a soil scientist and an institutional economist) are focusing on?” I answered truthfully if disingenuously “Any mature discipline or enterprise has its professional ethics.” Disingenuously because agriculture is the most mature profession/vocation and it has wended it way through a myriad of value conflicts without an explicit ethics until now. The problem is that the religious norms which worked powerfully in the past were felt by many as ill suited to the “pluralism” of public education, on the one hand, and on the other the economists seemed to claim access to a neutral, “objective” norm not requiring ethics.
this same time Glenn Johnson, an agricultural economist, was calling to the attention of his
colleagues that all their “factual” and quantitative arguments contained at
least one normative (“ought”, “should”, “must”) premise if there were to be any
policy recommendation in the conclusion, and that there is certainly no
self-evident reason why all those normative premises should be trumped by
considerations of efficiency. That this insight into the structure of policy
argumentation was remarkable and disturbing was itself remarkable to us who
were not wedded to neo-classical economics and had some experience in applied
ethics. Glenn was not a “red” and definitely not what we would call a “green”
today. He just wanted to end the pretense that anything significant is
accomplished in agricultural policy argument without some normative
justification. Unspoken and therefore un-inspected premises, especially
normative ones, will come back and bite you. Apart from any human kindness, “A
living wage for full-time agricultural workers is not obligatory” will lead
to rural counties burdened with a huge
poverty class, costly public health problems and a generally depressed local
economy, all in the form of a subsidy of slightly cheaper food in some distant
city. But human kindness counts too. Or does it? As Cesar Chavez’s successful
grape-boycott in the mid 60’s revealed, long before there was an “agricultural
ethics,” significant portions of the
The situation in the 1970’s and 80’s was one of a profusion of values
being both recommended to agriculture and being injured by it. Rural churches
were convening regional and national convocations to state solid consensus theological and scriptural
principles for maintaining family farms and
rural community life. (Dundon, 1991a, 63). The Kellogg Foundation leadership
also felt that the urbanization of
None of these sources of the ferment was in the possession of an organized treatise on the applied ethics of agriculture. To be effective, they needed no more foundations in some fancy ethical theory than medicine did. The values involved were all that mattered. Public university philosophy departments, wags in the 1960’s said, had killed God and anything else humanly relevant in philosophy, including ethics. “Applied philosophy” was like “square circle.” And about ethics the question was whether it exists, given that no sensory experience corresponds to the word “should” or “ought.” At least one prominent American philosopher considered the ability of philosophers to convince trustees of major universities to fund philosophy departments one of the best evidences of their intellectual agility. This was not a group likely to mine documents from the Church of the Brethren or the United Church of Christ for some ethical principles on the defense of family farming. Yet only the churches had a credible voice in the countryside on normative matters.
The truth be told, there was not then and is not now much in agricultural ethics which gives a philosopher center stage for his/her philosophic agility. The philosophers who first began to engage in agricultural issues seemed not the slightest interested in choosing between varieties of ethical systems, varieties of utilitarianism, deontology, or rights theories. They were moved by the values they saw threatened or in conflict with other values of importance in agriculture. They worked from the values out. One can find in the literature an occasional effort to find a system, e.g. utilitarianism with Tweeten(Tweeten, 1987, 246), and some innovative uses of other systems included in Charles Blatz’s anthology Ethics in Agriculture (1991) including his own. Those systems are frequently aimed at the somewhat intellectualized goals of philosophers such as simplicity, unity and consistency, and, for some, quantitative measurability. The early agricultural ethicists were intensely pragmatic, meaning committed to saving what they regarded as the most critical values impacted by agriculture. Ethics would be subservient to the preservation of those values. Hardly a debasement of ethics, this pragmatism is a recapturing of the medieval “first principle of ethics” which always seemed circular to undergraduates, but obvious to their parents: “The good is to be done.” Or “Harm is to be avoided.” The good or harm are not moral good or moral evil but some kind of natural good/harm, including physical, social, psychological, emotional, or economic. Policies are morally good because they protect or create what is physically good. Jeff Burkhardt in struggling with the warring values of an agricultural clientele that now includes chemical companies and machinery manufacturers makes one of these pragmatic efforts in saying that everywhere (and a fortiori in agriculture) the first criterion of the [physical, non-moral] good is serious human need. All other human pursuits presuppose that needs fundamental to human life have been met. So those fundamental needs are the first in the order of urgency.
Such needs include: (1) adequate, affordable…nutritionally adequate food; (2) adequate, affordable, or at least available, clothing and shelter; (3) a livable environment; (4) secure means to provide one’s livelihood; and (5)accessible educational opportunities.(Burkhardt, 1986, 35) 
An intensely pragmatic agricultural ethics writes, endorses, or advocates those normative principles which protect those values, principally the ones listed in (1) in Burkhardt’s list. Each profession/vocation dealing with basic needs has a conventionally assigned portion of human needs as it basic goal values for which it is responsible. No one professional enterprise is responsible for the whole of the human good. But other ethical norms arise, as we have seen, when the means by which the profession attains its goal values begin to impact on important other values. Farmers, farm workers and their families and the conditions in which they live and work because of their involvement in agriculture are among the principal values which arise with production values and conflict with them. The “rural life” values are equally urgent with production goals as we discover in any other profession when the rewards are so bad that the professionals leave the profession in large numbers. It would have been impossible to find a philosopher in those days who eyes would not have opened rather wide upon hearing the principle of “the infinite mobility of labor.” It struck me at the time that many agricultural economists were like doctors all of whose patients were dead or dying and who then decided they were not doctors after all. With the exception of a few mavericks, the profession was of little help to the philosophers. And it was not as if they did not care about multiple values in farming. It was simply that the idea that a distinctly ethical set of norms might direct them seemed odd. When I would announce to my ag economist colleagues that I had received an NSF fellowship to study the ethics of agricultural economics, slow, gentle smiles would spread over their faces as they would ask: “What ethics?”
Burkhardt’s pragmatic focus on basic needs values is one of the things which makes doing agricultural ethics easy because those needs are so obvious and basic that there is not a lot of debate about them. A realization that the Golden Rule includes people who are distant from us in time as well in space gives us a way to call for sustainability in food supplies as well as in our choice of agricultural tools. But it was not as if reflective agriculturalists did not intuit the moral wrongness of wanton destruction of non-renewable agricultural resources.
So what do you need to do agricultural ethics?
· Be governed by the human needs which are agriculture’s goals to satisfy:
1) Sufficient, 2) healthy and 3) sustainable food (fiber) supplies.
· Then incorporate all the legitimate multifunctional elements under the rubric:
4) by means which respect the rights and dignity of all the participants.”
· Then express normative, ethical principles which protect and provide a reasonable prioritization among those values, keeping in mind that absolute priority and priority due to urgency in point of time are separate issues. You can see some of this done at www.soulofag.org where the process is used in the defense of family managed farming. Industrial agriculture which could satisfy the norms there would be much more ethically defensible.
· Don’t hesitate to use traditional Judeo-Christian normative principles regarding farming, land use, the dignity of labor, care for animals, since those can be stated without appeal to religious authority and since they are principles which are culturally strong in the country-side. (Dundon, 1991a)
· Don’t hesitate to use the Golden Rule. It is hardly sectarian. Or Kant’s: “Treat all persons as if they are also ends, not as if they are purely means to your ends.”
· Respect, while using them, the inherent goodness of animals and the environment
· Consult trained ethicists when dealing with complicated conflict issues involving “middle level principles.” One example is the“ precautionary principle.” A not very significant elaboration of “look before you leap”, it is astonishing to see serious players in agriculture maintaining that one does not need to look before leaping unless one has solid demonstration that a cost effective looking is called for. Some common sense ethics is called for if someone proposes a substitute “principle”: If delay for looking is costly, leaping without looking is o.k. because risk-taking is the price progress. Even if the risk is imposed on uninformed and unconsenting parties.
· Don’t be afraid of hokey sounding but effective principles like: “If you don’t want to see it in the newspapers after some suitable time, don’t do it.”
· Avoid ethical bad habits by, for example, a comparison with medical ethics principles of informed consent when dealing with the issue of labeling genetically modified (GMO) foods. Informed consent is treated with great care in medicine where the benefit is to the patient, why not in agriculture where it is not clear who benefits?
· Become acquainted with the history and philosophy of the sciences involved in any question. The less mature the science, the more astonishing the dreams of future novel products and methods, the more risk is likely to reside in regions “not sufficiently understood” where all risk resides.
· Note the potentially corrosive character of the claim: “There was no other way.” An adequate search for alternatives to costly or risky technologies is of the essence of good ethical policy making.
· Be wary of the tendency of institutions and agencies to sanctify the means over the ends. The ethical agent allows the ends to determine the means however much that may mean that his/her professional tool box may not be needed in this case or must be loaded with new or different tools.
· Your conviction that the best science available must guide our practical decisions should be shored up with wariness about today’s world where speedy action, huge profits, skilled public relations firms and “proprietary” knowledge are often involved. It must be kept in mind that there is no a priori quality that assigns the name good science or junk science to any proposition. It is only patient, thorough and carefully replicated testing by many parties, and open debate of all the results by objective critics that leads to science. And therefore if it is secret, it is not science, no matter how true and well established it seems to be to the holders of the secrets.
 At least one well-known philosopher has given approval to a rather odd use of agricultural animals, which fortunately has not been included among the functions of agriculture by any other commentator. In the defense of this philosopher, who shall remain nameless to allow him time to recover from his utilitarian fever, he did note a need for compassionate restraint with respect to chickens, thus protecting his voice in the field of agricultural ethics.
Adams, by David McCullough, p645, (Simon
 Ibid. 648-49
 Oswald Schreiner, “Early Fertilizer
Work in the
 Sandra S. Batie, “Soil Conservation in the 1980s: A Historical Perspective”, Agricultural History, 59,2, April 85, p. 108
 Liebig was an early German expert on plant nutrition who determined the needs of plants by chemical analysis of their tissues. This approach, for a long while, offered the seductive hope that agricultural soil science could become a white-smock laboratory science appropriate even to Harvard dons and rarely requiring trips to muddy fields
 Harold Pinkett, “Government Research Concerning Problems of American Rural Society”, Agricultural History, 58, 3, July 1984, 367.
Kirkendall, “History of the Family Farm” in Is There
a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm? Ed. By Gary Comstock, Iowa State
 Harold T. Pinkett, “Government Research Concerning the Problems of American Rural Society” Ag. History, 58, 3, July 1984, p. 356
 Claton S. Ellsworth, “Theodore Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission, Ag. History 34, 3, October 1960, p. 156, cited in Pinkett, loc.cit.
 Harry C. McDean, “Professionalism, Policy, and Farm Economists in the Early Bureau of Agricultural Economics,” Agricultural History, 57,1, Jan. 83, p. 71, Also his “Professionalism in the Rural Social Sciences1896-1919, Ag. Hist. 58, 3, July 84, p. 392
 Adell Brown, “Economic Factors Affecting the Survival of
Black Operated Farms, in Human Resources Development in Rural
Graham Sr. 1970 Since Silent Spring,
Madden, “Values, Economics and Agricultural Research” Ethics and Agriculture, edited by Charles Blatz, Univ . of
for example, his “Food for People and Profit” in Is There a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm?, ed. by Gary
 Jeffrey Burkhardt, “The Value Measure in Public Agricultural Research”, The Agricultural Scientific Enterprise, A System in Transition, ed. by Lawrence Busch and William B. Lacy, Westview Press, Boulder, 1986, p 35.