Course Syllabus


Politics and Ethics of Food

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2024 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Environmental Studies, Ethics, Political Science



Faculty Members:

Morten Nielsen 

Current students please use the canvas inbox for contact

Time & Place:

Monday/ Thursday, 14.50 - 17.45 

Classroom: Fi6-Metro 104

Please note: This course meets once per week on either Monday or Thursday from 14:50 - 17:45. The exact dates can be found in the Course Calendar.

Description of Course

In this course we analyze some of the core discussions on how we eat and produce food in different societies around the world.

We look at political, economic, social and cultural dimensions and cover themes such as animal ethics, climate, environment, health, food distribution, world hunger and bioengineered food.

We discuss ethical and political questions like; should we eat animals? How does food effect our health? Can (and should) governments influence what people eat? How is food a part of our culture? What are our responsibilities toward the environment, the climate and nature when we produce and consume food? Do we have a responsibility to reduce hunger in the world and how can we do it? Should we embrace or avoid GMOs and bioengineered food?

Furthermore, we analyze the politics of our food systems. We look at the decision-making processes in the USA, EU and Denmark and ask; who decides what, for whom, why and how?

We will explore what people eat, why they eat it, how it has changed over time, and how it will most likely keep changing. We ask how political actors influence this development.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, you will have an understanding of some of the many different ethical and political dimensions of food consumption and production.

The course will enable you to make more informed, rational and moral decisions in your own life. But first and foremost, it will give you knowledge and informed arguments that qualify you to engage in substantiated discussions about the political and moral ramifications of different food systems.

This course will be especially beneficial for those of you who consider pursuing a career in political institutions, NGO’s or companies that work with food related issues. 

Faculty: Morten Nielsen

Morten holds an MSc. from University of Copenhagen. Morten has 20 years+ of experience working on international food policy. Morten has worked for the United Nations and held positions in the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food. He has been posted to the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN and WTO in Geneva. Further, he has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Danish farmers and food industry and for the Biotech industry – both in Brussels. Currently he holds a position as Senior Food Policy Advisor at the Danish Agriculture & Food Council.


The course outline will be posted on DIS canvas, listing the required readings for each lecture. Check the course outline frequently for updates. Supplementary articles will be made available online (links in Canvas for each lecture)    


Please pick up the following textbooks during the Arrivals Workshop

  • Singer & Mason: The Ethics of What We Eat- Why Our Food Choices Matter, Rodale Books, 2007
  • Sandler: Food Ethics (The Basics) , Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2014  (e-text book on Canvas under Modules)

Other Readings (available online on DIS Canvas - see the calendar event for the relevant lecture):   

  • Watson: “Climate Change and Agriculture: Countering Doomsday Scenarios” pp. 453-474
  • Lymbery and Oakeshott: “Farmageddon” pp. 39-78
  • Carter: “The Politics of the Environment” pp. 13-37 and pp. 321-341
  • United Kingdom Governments Office for Science, 2014 Innovation: Managing risk - not avoiding
  • Organic 3.0 for truly Sustainable Production and Consumption, IFOAM 
  • Danish Agriculture and Food council: “Sustainable intensive production” pp. 1-11
  • Summary Report of the EAT-lancet Commission, Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems pp. 1-32
  • The New Nordic Food Manifesto (from
  • Food Nation White paper: Collaboration. The business culture that builds a strong food cluster pp. 1-36
  • The European Commission. "How the European Union Works." July 2012
  • European Green Deal strategy 
  • European union Farm to Fork Strategy
  • Nestle, Marion: Food Politics, How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health pp. 93-159
  • Food Nation: Organic, A vision and a Mindset in the Danish Food Cluster pp. 1-40

Field Studies

  • Field Study 1:  February 14 8:30 - 12:30 Visit at the Danish Ethical Trade Initiative


  • Field Study 2:  April 3   13:00 - 17:00 Visit at The Food Bank

Guest Lecturers 


  • Thyge Nygaard, Senior Agricultural Policy Advisor , Danish Society for Nature Conservation. The Danish Society for Nature Conservation is the largest nature conversation and environmental organisation in Denmark. It is a membership organisation that works to conserve nature and the environment in Denmark through local work, conservation, lobbying and specific projects. . 
  • Dr. Aske Bosselmann is a scientist, lecturer, consultant, dad and a coffee enthusiast with an eye for responsible value chains, climate smart agriculture, functioning ecosystems and decent livelihoods. As an  Associate Prof. at the University of Copenhagen, Aske spends his time managing research projects, teaching and supervising students, collaborating with research institutions and private companies across the globe, and engaging with Danish actors to create responsible linkages to food systems abroad.

Expectations of the Students

All students have to do the assigned readings and preparations for every class. Everybody will participate in study-groups that occasionally needs to meet outside of class to prepare presentations etc. Participation in class discussions is necessary to create an active learning experience.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work. 

Based on your readings and discussions in class, you will be asked to prepare and participate in a role play and to do two written assignments, one of them being a group assignment. The purpose of the assignments is to sharpen your knowledge around theories and cases presented in class. The assignments will also be useful when writing the final paper. The dates due for the assignments are listed in the course summary.  

Final paper
By the end of the semester you will be asked to hand in an academic final paper of maximum 5 pages (1250 words). See assignments for more details on the final paper.  

The overall grade will come from the following: 




Engaged Course Participation 


2 Assignments 

45% (total)

 Final Paper


Additional  Areas to Cover

It is crucial for your learning that you stay on task and hand in assignments on or before the due date. All work– including in-class projects – have to be completed in order to pass the class. Late papers or projects will be marked down with 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late.

Use of laptop in class for taking notes is accepted. No phones during class.  

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 



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Course Summary:

Date Details Due