This quarter’s editor’s picks are “Food Labels, Autonomy, and the Right (Not) to Know,” by Matteo Bonotti and “Food Labels, Genetic Information, and the Right Not to Know,” by Michele Loi.
This linked pair of papers follows up on and develops problems raised in our September 2014 (24:3) special issue on obesity and the regulation of bodies. Bonotti and Loi each focus on British food labeling laws, arguing that—despite the common idea that being ‘informed’ is a precondition for autonomy—sometimes the right to avoid certain information can be an important component of flourishing autonomous agency. Labeling foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ can inappropriately control how we interpret our food choices and how we experience certain foods, and it can take foods out of their proper context. In turn this can unduly interrupt important values and sources of pleasure. At the same time, having nutrition information available in an easily accessible and usable form can also be an important contributor to agency and health.
Matteo Bonotti, PhD, is Lecturer in Political Theory in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. He received his MSc in International and European Politics and his PhD in Politics from the University of Edinburgh. His research interests lie in contemporary political theory, with a special focus on issues concerning ethical pluralism and diversity in their various manifestations (e.g. religious, linguistic, dietary) and how the state should respond to them.
Michele Loi, PhD, has a postdoctoral research grant funded by FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) at the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal. He received his PhD in political theory from Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali (LUISS) in Rome. His main contributions to political philosophy and bioethics relate to the debate on human enhancement and the ethical relevance of genetics and epigenetics.