You eat what you are: Moral dimensions of diets tailored to one's genes

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16 (6):557-568 (2003)
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Abstract

Thanks to developments in genomics,dietary recommendations adapted to genetic riskprofiles of individual persons are no longerscience fiction. But what are the consequencesof these diets? An examination of possibleimpacts of genetically tailor-made diets raisesmorally relevant concerns that are analogous to(medical-ethical) considerations aboutscreening and testing. These concerns oftengive rise to applying norms for informedconsent and for the weighing of burdens andbenefits. These diets also have a broaderimpact, especially because food patterns arefull of personal, social and cultural meanings.Diets will change one's food patterns and one'sattitude towards food, and this may implychanges in one's identity. We argue that suchan impact does not necessarily raise moralproblems. Moral concerns are, however, relevantif collective values and shared meanings infood practices are at issue. Therefore, thedevelopment of genetically tailor-made dietsdoes not merely require emphasis on weighingpersonal benefits and burdens and on informedconsent. It also asks for attention to andmoral reflection on the collective valuesinvolved in food practices.

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Author Profiles

Frans Brom
Utrecht University
Franck Meijboom
Utrecht University
Marcel Verweij
Utrecht University

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