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January 4, 2010

Food Law at AALS, Friday, Jan. 8

The Association of Americal Law Schools (AALS) meets in New Orleans later this week.  The Open Source Program this year is Food, Law and Values. It takes place Friday, January 8, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Here's the program:

AALS Open Source Program – Food, Law, & Values Friday, January 8, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

4:00 – 4:50 Food Production beyond Technology: Risks, fears, environment, and labor

Moderator: Bret C. Birdsong, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

A program on food law would naturally begin with food production. Increasingly, consumers are interested in how food was produced, demonstrating that food production is more than agricultural and scientific techniques. Food production raises value-laden questions of identity, personal autonomy, and concern for culture. In addition, advancing technology implicates uncertainty and risk. This panel presents several points of focus on values in food production, approaches to risk and uncertainty in food production, and the appropriate roles for governmental intervention.
Format: Traditional – each panelist speaks for 7 to 10 minutes, followed by about 10 minutes of panel discussion and audience participation.

Panelists: Stephanie Tai, University of Wisconsin Law School – Food safety regulation development and confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) siting management may seem to be widely disparate subjects, but Professor Tai will bring these together by focusing on the tensions between public participation and scientific expertise in these two different contexts. Rather than providing normative recommendations regarding these issues, however, the focus is on recognizing the implications of public participation structures for the epistemic nature of the scientific information used by agencies in reaching their regulatory decisions.

Guadalupe T. Luna, Northern Illinois University College of Law – Agricultural laws affect more than food. Professor Luna will discuss globalization of the agricultural workforce and its impact on domestic Indians and the Purepecha Indians from Mexico. The Purepecha are farmworkers residing on the Cahualla Indian Reservation in California and in difficult housing conditions. The immediate intent is not to lay blame on the tribe housing the farmworkers; but to illustrate how agricultural laws are directly harming both groups with further attendant harm on the environment of an Indian nation.

James Ming Chen, University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law -- The mass marketing of foods derived from organisms modified through recombinant DNA technology has put extreme pressure on the interpretation and implementation of the United States' basic food safety law, the venerable Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. In its classic form, the FD&CA reflects its Progressive and New Deal roots. It vests enormous trust in a specialized agency, the Food and Drug Administration, which is presumed to have nonpareil expertise over food safety. The political reality of GM foods, however, has placed the FD&CA and its implementation by the FDA in severe tension with the Organic Foods Production Act and with commercial speech doctrine.

Fear about food is one of the most deeply seated forms of behavioral protection against the natural world. It is precisely here, where food comes into contact with notions of good and evil, that the classic regulatory state must take its stand. The FDA's regulation of foods using rDNA technology upholds the best of the Progressive regulatory tradition and deserves to survive the challenge posed by the OFPA, the revived commercial speech doctrine, and contemporary consumer distrust of governmentally supervised review of science and safety.

Marne Coit, Coit Consulting, Fayetteville, Arkansas – Local food systems and sustainability. For people who work in agriculture, there is often a tendency to view one’s work as either helping farmers or as helping consumers. A dichotomous viewpoint such as this is not necessarily productive. In particular, when thinking about sustainability, it is more productive to use a systems approach, and to think about these issues in a way that takes farmers, consumers, the environment, culture, and ethics into consideration. One model that seeks to accomplish this is local food systems, which works to meet the needs of both farmers and consumers in a sustainable manner and has become increasingly popular in recent years. Ms. Coit will examine the role of law, policy, and values in local food systems.


4:55 to 5:25 The Role of Governments – Labels, Regulation, Economy, and Safety Moderator: Donna M. Byrne, William Mitchell College of Law

The Obama administration seems to be taking a more aggressive approach with respect to controlling the food industry through increased regulation. States and local governments are also taking a more pro-active approach. One area where regulation has an obvious role is labeling. Food labeling should be a way to provide consumers with the opportunity to make decisions about what they eat - decisions that may be based not only on safety or nutrition but on other factors such as social or economic issues. But, how can the law better assure that food labels serve these larger purposes? How do other countries address these issues?

Format: Each panelist speaks very briefly (5-7 minutes), followed by discussion among the panelists,

Panelists:

Margaret E. Sova McCabe, Franklin Pierce Law Center -- the relationship between scientific certainty, food label claims, and consumer information. Professor McCabe will use the gluten-free definition as an example of how Congress asked FDA for a definition in the FALCPA, but that FDA interprets this mandate to require comprehensive review of the status of science on celiac disease as well as product testing.

Neil D. Hamilton, Drake University Law School – A perspective from the Obama/Vilsack administration. Professor Hamilton chaired the Iowa Food Policy Council for six years under then Governor Vilsack and is now serving as an informal adviser to him and USDA on various issues - including the new Know Your Farmer Know Your Food effort as well as the People's Garden project.

Thomas Wilson, Alabama A&M University School of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences – A view from across the pond. Professor Wilson started the online Food Law Certificate Program at Michigan State and was chair of the Institute of Food Technologists food law committee for a year as well. But more recently Professor Wilson has lived in Europe working with the Food Directorates in the Netherlands.

5:30 – 6:00 Food Law, Food Law Scholarship and where we go from here. One of the driving notions behind the open-source program idea is to get folks together who often think about disparate things that bear some relation to food law. Although many scholars have been writing about food law for a long time, others of us are moving into the area from other disciplines. This panel will provide a chance for us to discuss, albeit briefly, where we, as legal scholars, see our particular niche (or niches) in the development/transformation of food policy.

Moderator: Stephanie Tai, University of Wisconsin Law School

Two Panelists will each briefly present a global perspective, followed by panel reactions:

Susan Schneider, University of Arkansas, School of Law, Fayetteville – From agriculture to food.The LL.M. program at the University of Arkansas School of Law now includes food law courses in its curriculum and recently changed its name to LL.M. in Agricultural & Food Law. When is agricultural law food law? Professor Schneider's recent scholarship calls for a reassessment of agricultural policy to reflect a closer connection to food policy goals and environmental sustainability. The shift in focus to consumer-driven issues with value-laden agricultural implications is bringing food law issues into the spotlight.


Bret C. Birdsong, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law – Critical Rice Theory. What is the role of the academy? Are we asking the right questions? The food choices that are available to us as individuals and collectively are bound up with our system of food law. Law shapes and informs those choices, and the food system shapes and infomrs the law. The enterprise for legal scholars should be to explore the interlinking web of law and food, taking into account the wide array of values that food and food production systems implicate, and suggest improvements that can help to transform the system into one that is more balanced, just, and sane.

Large Panel -- Where do we go from here? Any or all can chime in.

Post by Donna M. Byrne, Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law

January 4, 2010 | Permalink

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