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Fall 2023 Seminar

Food Law and Policy

Prerequisites: No prerequisites for JD students. LLM students must seek faculty permission.

Exam Type: No Exam

This seminar will present an overview of topics in food law and policy, and will 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. In the past few years, major news stories have covered the U.S. farm bill, labeling of genetically engineered food products, soda taxes, efforts to regulate school meals, and the misleading and unregulated terrain of expiration dates.

In order to better understand these issues and some of their root causes, we will examine food policy via the lenses of farmers, consumers, and corporations, as well as using diverse disciplinary perspectives. Each class will begin with ensuring a shared understanding of the relevant sources of law before delving into policy considerations and discussions of what the law could and should be. We will concentrate on food law in the United States, but will also include comparative global perspectives when helpful.

We begin the course by looking at the basic regulation of food, focusing on the history and current issues in rules regarding food safety. We then analyze federal agricultural policy and farm subsidies, and the environmental, health, and safety implications of our agricultural system. The course will cover issues in food labeling, including nutrition information, health claims, GMO labeling, and organic labeling. Students will also examine the role the government plays in determining what foods are consumed, through its Dietary Guidelines, food assistance programs, and other attempts to increase healthy food access or consumption. Finally, we will 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.

Enrollment in the seminar is limited to 22 students and it is open to LLM students by permission.

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 August 18, 2023.

To learn more about the Clinical Curriculum and Registration, please visit our Clinical Registration Center.
You can also find more information on How to Register for Clinics and How Clinical Credits Work.