Food Law and Policy

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Fall 2013 Seminar
Meets: M 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 3034
2 classroom credits

This seminar will present an overview of topics in food policy, and will examine how law and policy shape our food system and what we eat. In recent years, increasing attention has been focused on agricultural policy, the safety of the food chain, and the dual burdens of hunger and obesity.

We will examine food policy from various viewpoints, including a historical perspective, past and current economic attitudes, and the varying lenses of farmers, consumers, and food corporations. 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 areas such as food aid programs, farming support, and increasing healthy food access.

This seminar will begin with the big picture, looking at the broader ways in which domestic and international law have interacted to lead to malnutrition and obesity, both in the United States and abroad. Following this overview, we will analyze federal agricultural policy and farm subsidies and take a look at the environmental, health, and safety implications of farming in our current food system. We will also discuss genetically modified crops, and the meaning of "organic," "sustainable," and "fair trade," as well as ongoing debates about these labels. We will then take a series of weeks to look at the role the government plays in what foods are eaten in the United States, through its food assistance programs, food purchasing programs, and nutrition guidelines. Finally, we will spend the last few weeks of the semester evaluating potential solutions, including interventions aimed at improving education about healthy foods, changing food advertising and marketing practices, and increasing access to healthy foods.

The reading materials for the seminar will be provided in a course reader, and will 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. In addition to discussion of the reading for each class theme, students will also be assigned to participate in role plays and debates.

The seminar is open to any student interested in food and agricultural policy and its implications on health and the environment. No background or prerequisites are required.

Rather than an examination, students will be required to submit reading responses via the online course blog, prepare for and participate in in-class role play debates, and submit one short policy brief. The policy brief will be geared to the appropriate government level and agency (state or federal government, depending on who controls the issue) and will explain a food-related problem and recommend a policy change or set of changes 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.

Enrollment in the seminar is limited to 20 students, and is open to LLM students by permission.

Some seats are reserved for students enrolled in the fall and winter Food Law and Policy Clinic. Students must be enrolled in the clinic before they can claim one of these reserved seats. A student’s enrollment in a reserved clinical seat is dependent on the student’s enrollment in the Food Law and Policy Clinic. Please see the clinic’s description for more information.

Subject Areas: Health Law , Regulatory Law .