Food Law and Policy
This seminar will present an overview of topics in food law and examine how these laws shape what we eat. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to a range of issues impacting the food system from farm to fork to landfill. For example, recent major news stories have covered oppressive labor conditions for agricultural workers and lack of hazard pay during COVID or heat protection during heat waves; state and local efforts to expand access to healthy foods and to tax or label unhealthy products; reporting of the scale of land loss by BIPOC producers as a result of direct governmental and societal discrimination; and efforts to prevent labeling of plant-based products as “meat” or “milk.” Since March 2020, we have seen increased visibility of issues related to food production, safety of food workers, and food insecurity, as the COVID-19 pandemic revealed and exacerbated fractures and inequities embedded in our food systems.
In order to better understand these issues and some of their root causes, we will examine food law and policy via the diverse lenses of producers, consumers, workers, communities, and companies, as well as using various disciplinary perspectives. We will concentrate on food law in the United States, but will also discuss the global food system, and will include comparative international perspectives in several areas.
Some of the overall themes that this course addresses are the environmental, health, and safety consequences of food production; the lack of a coordinated U.S. food policy and the challenges posed by our fragmented regulatory framework; the failure of agricultural practices to internalize the costs of their environmental and health impacts; the challenges to promoting transparency in food labeling and marketing; the deep-rooted inequities in those who benefit from and are burdened by the food system; and the grave food insecurity and food access challenges across the U.S. In addition to following these themes throughout the course, we will also evaluate a range of existing and potential policy interventions at the federal, state, and local level.
The reading materials will be provided in a course reader and on the course website, and include various book chapters, cases, regulations, news reports, and scholarly articles that present diverse viewpoints on the topics presented. The seminar is intended to spark debate between different sides of these often controversial issues.
The seminar is open to any student interested in food and agricultural policy and its implications on health and the environment, and no background or prerequisites are required. Rather than an examination, students will be required to submit short discussion posts via the online course discussion board; prepare for and participate in in-class role play debates; and write a policy paper that explains a food law problem and recommends a policy change intended to improve the health, nutrition, or environmental outcomes. Grades will be determined on the basis of these written submissions, in-class role plays, and class participation.
This course satisfies the clinical seminar requirement for the Food Law & Policy Clinic. The drop deadline for students enrolled in this course in a clinical seat is December 8, 2023.
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