Lawrence Busch claims that, although some philosophers may recognize the ethical import of standards, they do not endeavor to understand how people justify standards in social reality. The argument in this paper is that the Michigan State University (MSU) School of Agrifood Governance and Technoscience should actually be understood as fleshing out a more important role for ethicists. This argument is explored through an analysis of the MSU School’s research on standards, a reassessment of J.O. Urmson’s “On Grading,” and a review of major ethical theories, from utilitarianism to discourse ethics. The conclusion is that, though standards may be used and justified within social networks and worlds, there will always be points where their determination and application require discussion by stakeholders and other publics. It is at these points that the reasons offered in support of various standards should be subject to debate and skepticism, and the role of ethics as an activity is crucial in conjunction with social scientific research.

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