In a recent panel presentation at the annual Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) conference, the largest and most important gathering of food-studies faculty, authors, researchers, and practitioners, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin delivered a talk on his latest working paper, The Localization of Food Law and Policy.
The paper, which Linnekin presented alongside his co-author, senior fellow and faculty member Emily Broad Leib of Harvard University Law School, focuses on what Linnekin and Broad Leib refer to as a recent and dramatic shift away from an emphasis on top-down federal laws and regulations pertaining to food and toward a regulatory system focused instead at the state and local levels (as with, for example, cottage food laws). From The Localization of Food Law and Policy abstract:
Since the early 1900s, Congress has concentrated increasing authority over America’s food supply in the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a response, most food-law scholarship has largely focused on top-down federal regulatory efforts. Over the last decade, though, the locus of activity around food policy, regulation, and scholarship has mirrored the booming local-foods movement and turned its focus to the state and local levels.... The panelists will present their ongoing research on the topic, discuss particular examples of this emerging phenomenon, and evaluate the pros and cons of food-system regulations that are increasingly local in nature.
One particularly interesting example of the phenomenon--which we mention in the abstract--is taking place in American law schools. After decades of traditional "food and drug law" classes--which focus only on FDA caselaw (to the exclusion of USDA or FTC regulations and, more importantly, to the stunning exclusion of discussions of key food law and policy issues like agriculture, obesity, animal welfare, restaurants, and subsidies)--law schools are now offering coursework, legal clinics, and specialized degrees that focus more broadly on food law and policy (rather than FDA law). Based on data we've uncovered in the course of our research, legal scholarship centered around food has also moved in this direction.
"I am excited to carry out this research and to prepare it for publication in the scholarly press because it helps to further Keep Food Legal's core mission to promote the right of every American to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing," Linnekin says. "While not all of the laws and regulations taking place at the local level are worth celebrating--New York City's proposed soda ban is one example--state and local laws and regulations that push back against an overbearing federal regulatory apparatus invariably expand food freedom by increasing individuals' awareness of and access to more food choices."
View the slides from Linnekin and Broad Leib's presentation here. Keep Food Legal will be certain to update our members and supporters on the progress of this working paper as the authors prepare it for submission to various law journals later this summer.