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Agriculture's Ethical Horizon - 2nd Edition - ISBN: 9780124160439, 9780123914781

Agriculture's Ethical Horizon

2nd Edition

Author: Robert Zimdahl
Hardcover ISBN: 9780124160439
eBook ISBN: 9780123914781
Paperback ISBN: 9780323282536
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 30th January 2012
Page Count: 308
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The second edition of Agriculture's Ethical Horizon is a carefully considered application of philosophical concepts, such as utilitarianism and positivism, to the practice of agricultural science. Author Robert Zimdahl argues for an approach to agriculture guided by foundational values, and addresses the questions: What are the goals of agricultural and weed science? What should their goals be? How do and how should the practitioners of agriculture address complex ethical questions?

This book engages students, researchers, and professionals across disciplines including horticulture, soil and plant science, entomology, and more, all without requiring a background in philosophy. It examines topics such as scientific truth and myth, moral confidence in agriculture, the relevance of ethics to sustainability, and biotechnology. New to this edition is a chapter examining the raising, housing and slaughter of animals for human food, and a chapter on alternative and organic agricultural systems.

Key Features

  • Easily understood by non-philosophers
  • Chapter sidebars highlight important concepts and can be used to engage students in further discussion
  • Companion website includes further teaching aids and a discussion board


Anyone engaged in agriculture including students, researchers, and professionals in environmental studies, horticulture, plant science, and soil science. Those involved in associated regional and county offices, farmers and ranchers, agricultural chemical companies, and all those employed by other phases of the agricultural industry

Table of Contents

Foreword First Edition

Foreword Second Edition


Acknowledgments First Edition

Acknowledgments Second Edition

1. The Horizon of Agricultural Ethics

Scientific Truth and Myth

2. The Conduct of Agricultural Science

What Research Ought to Be Done?

3. When Things Go Wrong—Balancing Technology’s Safety and Risk

The Development of Herbicides

Progress of Weed Science


The Continuing Debate

4. A Brief Introduction to Moral Philosophy and Ethical Theories

Science and Emotion

Universal Values

Ethics in Agriculture

Contemporary Normative Ethics

Ethical Theories Relevant to Agriculture

Ethical Egoism

Social Contract Theory

Virtue Ethics

Deontological or Kantian Ethics


Applying Ethics in Agriculture and Agricultural Science

Multiple Strategies Utilitarianism

5. Moral Confidence in Agriculture

The Benefits and Costs of Modern Agriculture

Goals for Agriculture

Social Goals for Agriculture

Environmental Goals for Agriculture

Expanding Agriculture’s Moral Scope

The Utilitarian Standard

The Relevance of the Western Agricultural Model

Bottom-line Thinking



6. The Relevance of Ethics to Agriculture and Weed Science

7. Agricultural Sustainability

The Present Agricultural Situation: The Example of Weed Management

The Moral Case for Sustainability

What is Sustainability?

Why must Sustainability be Achieved?

A Concluding Comment About Sustainable Weed Science


8. Biotechnology

The Debate

Technological Problems


Arguments in Favor of Agricultural Biotechnology

Arguments Opposed to Agricultural Biotechnology

The Moral Arguments

9. Alternative/Organic Agricultural Systems

Characteristics of Alternative/Organic Systems

The Farmers and Productivity

Transition and Advantages

Ethical Problems

10. Animal Agriculture

Western Thought and the Line

A Person

Arguments in Support of Animal Agriculture

Arguments Against Animal Agriculture

Animal Biotechnology

A New Technology

A Final Word

11. A Glimpse Ahead

Six Important Issues/Problems/Matters of Concern

Dominant Scientific Myths

Production and Ethics

The Imperative of Responsibility

Finding Partners

Mission Statements (Summary—Tables 11.1 and 11.2)

The Role of the University

Sustainability as a Goal



No. of pages:
© Elsevier 2012
30th January 2012
Hardcover ISBN:
eBook ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:

About the Author

Robert Zimdahl

Robert L. Zimdahl is a Professor of Weed Science at Colorado State University. He received his Ph.D. in Agronomy from Oregon State University. Among his many honors and awards, Dr. Zimdahl was elected a Fellow of the Weed Science Society of America in 1986 and currently serves as editor of that society’s journal, Weed Science. He has been a member of several international task forces and has authored a number of books and articles on the subject of weed science. He is the author of Fundamentals of Weed Science, and Six Chemicals that Changed Agriculture both from Elsevier.

Affiliations and Expertise

Robert L. Zimdahl is a Professor of Weed Science at Colorado State University.


Praise for the first edition:
"This book takes on the largest scientific and ethical challenge of our past and present and does so in an engaging manner." - Wes Jackson, President, The Land Institute

Agriculture's Ethical Horizon is both a competent review of value conflicts in agriculture and a striking tale of the intellectual, even spiritual, transformation of an agriculturalist who was a leader in one agriculture's most dramatic technical revolutions, the development of chemical weed control. Everyone will find something to criticize. No alert reader will be left unaffected and most will have responses which, in their sense of being intellectually cool, they will have to admit are profoundly emotional--one way or the other. I predict that whole conferences will be based on this book. Historians of environmental sciences should pay particular attention." - Stanislaus J. Dundon, California State University, Sacramento

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