Keep Food Legal Foundation's Baylen Linnekin Leads Local Food Producer Panel at Duke Law School Symposium
Last week Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin was fortunate to take part in the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum's 25th anniversary symposium at Duke University Law School. Other speakers at the symposium included Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Me.), Prof. Michael Roberts of UCLA Law School's Resnick Program on Food Law & Policy, and Prof. Kelly Brownell, dean of Duke's school of public policy.
Linnekin led a panel discussion on local food production that featured owners of a local creamery, restaurant, farm, and meat purveyor. He kicked the panel off with a discussion of the book he's currently writing on food, sustainability, and regulations. The book explores how the latter so very often impacts sustainable food production negatively. In his brief remarks, Linnekin highlighted the story of chef Mark DeNittis, an award-winning, sustainable food producer in the Denver, CO area who was forced out of business by USDA regulators in 2012. The remainder of the lively panel took the form of a Q&A that focused on the ways that food regulations impact the local food producers on the panel.
While in Durham, Linnekin also visited and toured the Duke Campus Farm, a working farm on campus-owned property that is staffed by the university. In 2014, the campus farm faced an existential threat from rules proposed by the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act.
We are thrilled to inform our supporters that Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin has signed an agreement with Island Press to write a book on food, sustainability, and government regulations.
The book, due to be completed in late 2015, discusses federal, state, and local laws and regulations that promote unsustainable practices (i.e., farm subsidies encouraging overuse of land and promoting food waste); prohibit sustainable food practices (i.e., food-safety regulations that impede or ban local animal slaughter); and prevent people from growing or obtaining food for themselves and their families (i.e., bans on keeping chickens or gardens on private property).
"Reducing the government’s regulatory footprint would help sustainable food options flourish," says Linnekin. "And by sustainable, I mean foods grown or produced using a set of practices that aspire to maximize the benefits of the food system while minimizing its negative impacts."
The book will draw from rich, real-world examples to illustrate why government must remove the shackles that bind America’s food system in order to ensure a more sustainable food future. Not surprisingly, given Keep Food Legal Foundation's work to protect an individual's right to make their own food choices, the book will discuss these issues through the lens of food freedom.
Island Press, founded in 1984, is a highly respected nonprofit publisher of environmentally themed books authored by a range of experts. It "works to provide the best ideas and information in the field to those seeking to understand and protect the environment and create solutions to its complex problems." Island Press authors include Pulitzer Prize winners E.O. Wilson and Dan Fagan and Pace University Law School Prof. Jason Czarnezki.
"I'm thrilled to work with Island Press and to write this book. I think it has great potential to have widespread impact--particularly by uniting people across typical political and ideological divides. Government rules make it more difficult for people of all stripes to make the food choices they want. That must change."
To celebrate this announcement, donors to Keep Food Legal Foundation who give at least $125 through the end of January will receive a signed copy of the published work, which will likely be issued in 2016.* You may make a donation to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Keep Food Legal Foundation--a donation that's tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law--by clicking here.
"We’ve piled regulations on top of regulations for decades-—often with disastrous consequences," says Linnekin, discussing one of the book's key themes. "In many ways, we’re further from a sustainable food system than we’ve ever been thanks to these food rules. It’s time to unchain America’s small farmers and food entrepreneurs."
We'll be sure to keep you posted on the book as events warrant. In the meantime, after you've donated, you may want to head on over to the Baltimore Sun to read Linnekin's 2011 op-ed on the need to end farm subsidies in order to ensure a more sustainable food future.
*Disclaimer: In the unlikely event of publication delays or other issues, we reserve the right to substitute a book of equal or lesser value.
Keep Food Legal Foundation submitted comments yesterday to the FDA on two supplemental rules the agency has proposed to implement as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
"Our criticism of the proposed rules goes to the heart of the matter," says Keep Food Legal Foundation executive director Baylen Linnekin. "These rules would erect new costs and regulatory barriers without making food or consumers safer."
The basis of our criticism? The FDA's own data on the likely benefits provided under the rules--which the agency intends to be the centerpiece of its efforts to reduce the 48 million cases of foodborne illness in America each year--are slight at best, as our comments describe:
Even if all of the benefits possible under the supplemental rules proposed in Dockets No. FDA-2011-N-0920 and FDA-2011-N-0921 are realized, the maximum benefit of these FSMA rules would be a reduction of 5.3 percent of foodborne illnesses. Meanwhile, the agency also floats a break-even figure of reducing 228,000 cases of foodborne illness under the manufacturing rules. The benefits of such a reduction are incalculably small. And if that smaller figure were realized, then it would mean the two proposed supplemental rules, taken together, would reduce cases of foodborne illness by only up to 3.3 percent. Ergo, the new range for FSMA “success” is a paltry reduction in cases of foodborne illness of between 3.3 percent and 5.5 percent.
And that’s an optimistic view. The FDA offers no floor on its estimate that the revised produce rule will reduce up to 1.57 million cases of foodborne illness. If the revised produce rule prevents 1 million cases instead of 1.57 million, for example, then the lower end of the FDA’s predicted benefit falls to a 2.6 percent overall reduction. With this data in mind, it’s easy to see the disconnect between what Congress promised under FSMA and what the FDA rules are capable of delivering.
In promoting FSMA, the FDA referred to foodborne illness as “a significant public health burden that is largely preventable.” Foodborne illness may be largely avoidable—through things like improved education and increased hand-washing. But the proposed supplemental rules contained in Dockets No. FDA-2011-N-0920 and FDA-2011-N-0921 demonstrate that FSMA has little to do with preventing foodborne illness, and much more to do simply with “modernizing” America’s food-safety regime. Taken together, the maximum benefits predicted by the FDA for the supplemental rules proposed in Dockets No. FDA-2011-N-0920 and FDA-2011-N-0921 are underwhelming. Their costs to producers, consumers, and taxpayers far outweigh their benefits.
Read our complete comments here. We also joined with other groups that support small farmers and ranchers by signing on to comments drafted by the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance. Read those comments here. And read more comments we've submitted on proposed food regulations impacting everything from food trucks to trans fats here.