Welcome!

Welcome to On Food Law, a food law and policy blog administered by the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law.  This blog will be a forum for food law scholars, policymakers, media, the food industry, and the interested public to engage with and discuss research in and ideas about food law and policy.

Food is, at once, the most personal and the most political.  Food affects all of us and the law affects all of food.  The things we eat, from morning coffee to late night snack, come to us as they are as the result of an elaborate web of legal regulations.  On Food Law’s goal is to build an understanding of the law of food, and ultimately improve both the law and our food.

We hope to foster and amplify the conversation among the many stakeholders, including industry, activists, academics, and politicians. Our authors will include members of the Food Law Lab, Resnick Center, Harvard Law, and UCLA Law faculty, staff, and students, as well as other scholars, policymakers, and individuals with ideas that may affect the food system.  We will also cross post to other blogs and relevant publications.

We would like for this blog to be a place of thoughtful discussion, and although our default is no comments, we will consider opening specific posts to comments or publishing responses.  Please see our policies.

Finally, please join the discussion, share what you see here, and stay in touch.  Follow us on Twitter at @UCLAFoodLaw and @thefoodlawlab, or email us at resnickprogram@law.ucla.edu, info@foodlawlab.com, or winters@law.ucla.edu.

Featured post

From Covid 19 to War in Ukraine: Anatomy of the Global Food Crisis in 2022

by Hilal Elver*

In March 2020 the world was shut down along with much of the global economy to avoid the spread of the powerful virus COVID-19. Suddenly, the so-called “efficient” global food supply chains were dismantled, harvests were left in the soil, food workers returned to their homes, the major organizing principle of supply and demand balance all but disappeared, and quite simply, the global food market as we knew it came alarmingly close to collapse. COVID-19 arrived at a time that food production was historically high, and prices low, but constraints on the movements of people and goods left many people without food, and global food systems entered an unusual stalemate. These results were not entirely unpredictable, but the world was unprepared to cope with the challenge. This was true in many countries and regions in both the Global North and Global South. As a result, the number of hungry people has increased by 150 million since the outbreak of the pandemic.

While the world was still struggling with many variants of Covid-19, and full recovery is not yet in sight, the February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation brought about a further deterioration in global food trade as these two countries happened to be major players in the global grain market.  Today’s food markets are heavily reliant on international food trade. Since the early 1990s, nearly a quarter of all food produced crosses international borders. The high dependency on global grain imports for the food security of many countries in the Middle East and Africa is causing a severe food crisis in many parts of the world.

FAO State of Hunger and Malnutrition Report 2022

On July 6, 2022, in the middle of multiple unresolved crises, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP), International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) (Those three are called UN Rome-based institutions), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) published their annual flagship report on progress toward ending hunger, achieving food security, and improving nutrition. The major message of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report (SOFI) was that “the world is moving in the wrong direction” to end hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition. The SOFI 2022 report projects that nearly 670 million people, or 8% of the world’s population, will be affected by hunger in 2030, instead of the “zero hunger” target Nr. 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. SOFI assesses the relevance of conflicts, including the most recent war in Ukraine, along with climate extremes and economic shocks. Additionally, for the first time, the report adds growing inequalities as major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Continue reading “From Covid 19 to War in Ukraine: Anatomy of the Global Food Crisis in 2022”

JOB POST! Law Clerk for Food and Beverage Team

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is offering a paid, school-term law clerk position to a diverse 2L/3L student to work with our Food + Beverage team for the Spring 2023 Term. This is a remote position with the potential to travel to one of the DWT offices at some point during the clerkship.  The online application site opens on October 3, 2022. Applications must be received by 11:59 PST on October 31, 2022.

The link to the job post is here.

JOB POST! Clinical Instructor in the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic

Apply now!

The Clinical Instructor will serve as a skilled staff attorney and teacher, and will provide leadership and oversight of Clinic projects, help develop and implement the vision for future Clinic initiatives, and conduct hands-on teaching and supervision of students. They will have a chance to work on a broad range of cutting edge international, federal, state, and local projects and with a dynamic team of faculty, staff, and students. The Clinical Instructor will have a chance to manage and support several ongoing projects as well as develop new clinic projects. We have a great team and lots of exciting projects underway.

Applicants for this position must have a JD, earned at least three years ago.

More info is here.

A Science and Policy Interface in Global Food Governance:

 The High Level Panel of Experts of the World Committee of Food Security

by Hilal Elver*

Global food insecurity is a highly complicated, persistent, and multi-dimensional issue that involves multiple sectors, various players, and policy domains (McKeon 2021). It appears in various ways in the different regions of the world, and it has a vast variety of interdependent underlying structural causes that are also linked to other global issues. In times of massive crises, the international community focuses on establishing effective food governance (McKeon 2015).  The sudden spike of food prices in 2007-2008 created major political uprisings in many developing countries. At that time, improving global food governance became a central focus of international discussions. As a result, in 2009, the Committee of the World Food Security (CFS) (originally created in 1974 as a UN intergovernmental body) was reformed and renewed to serve as a forum for review and follow up for food security policies. Since then, CFS is widely seen as the “foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform”for food security and nutrition globally.

Continue reading A Science and Policy Interface in Global Food Governance:

Dr. Sara Bleich, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, appears on Repast

Repast is the food law and policy podcast produced by the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy. Each month Michael Roberts and Diana Winters interview a thought leader in the field of food law and policy to discuss past achievements, current developments, and future challenges. You can find Repast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This month , Michael and Diana talk with a very special guest–Dr. Sara Bleich, the Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.   Dr. Bleich is leading the department’s work to counter food and nutrition insecurity in the United States.  In this episode, Dr. Bleich discusses the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security, the difference between food security and nutrition security, health equity, structural racism, the upcoming historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and much more.

Dr. Sara Bleich is on leave from her tenured position as a Professor of Public Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  She is a well-regarded public health policy expert specializing in food and nutrition policy and the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications. Her research centers on food insecurity, as well as racial injustice within the social safety net. Dr. Bleich holds a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University.

In the first year of the Biden administration, Dr. Bleich served as Senior Advisor for COVID-19 in the Office of the Secretary. In January 2022, she transitioned to her new role as the first Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the Food and Nutrition Service at USDA.  She will elaborate more on this role today.  From 2015-2016, she served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration, where she worked in USDA as a Senior Policy Advisor for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. 

Michael T. Roberts is the Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

Diana Winters is the Deputy Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

For more on the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security, see here.

See here for Secretary Vilsack’s address on the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security.

See here for the USDA’s new blog series on nutrition security.

Look here for information about the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT: NORMATIVE AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Protection of Right to Food and Environment in Times of Armed Conflict

by Hilal Elver*

The following is the keynote address given by Hilal Elver to the Geneva Academy on June 8, 2022. Footnotes at end of article.

Internal and international armed conflicts are one of the major reasons for increased food insecurity and malnutrition. Despite well-established norms of international human rights law and international humanitarian law protecting the right to food, hunger and  malnutrition, as well as famine has skyrocketed in last few years. There is a shocking failure in addressing criminal acts of deliberate starvation and other severe violations of a fundamental human right: the “right to food.” This non-compliance by States and other political actors as well as the reluctance to implement existing international norms to protect human rights and the environment in times of war is a critical failure of international community.

Most recently, the war in Ukraine has elevated catastrophic hunger and malnutrition levels to the top of the global agenda. The war has raised awareness of ongoing widespread hunger and malnutrition even beyond Ukraine, as the parties to the conflict are the major players of global agricultural trade.

Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights specifically recognizes “the fundamental right of everyone to be from hunger,” which further imposes an obligation on States to ensure “the satisfaction of, at the very least, the minimum essential level” of this right under all circumstances, including the times of war. Freedom from hunger is accepted as part of customary international law, rendering it binding for all states regardless of whether they are party to the Covenant. States cannot put aside or postpone the realization of this core component of the body of economic and social rights. According to their international legal obligations, States must continue to take deliberate and targeted steps using all appropriate means to fulfill these rights, even in times of conflict.  Yet, 60% of the people suffering from hunger and malnutrition globally live in conflict-ridden places, mostly in the Middle East and Africa.

Continue reading “ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT: NORMATIVE AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK”

Reflections on the 6th Annual Food Law Conference: Current Trends & Perspectives Beyond the Beltway

by Alexa Libro*

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending CLE International’s 6th Annual Food Law Conference. I vividly remember attending the previous food law conference in San Francisco in February of 2020, deliberating on whether it was appropriate to shake hands and how often to use hand sanitizer. A lot has changed since then, including food law. This evolution of food law was demonstrated in every session of this year’s food law conference. Ann Oxenham, the Acting Director of the Office of Compliance in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at the US Food and Drug Administration spoke of tech-enabled traceability as a part of the FDA’s new era of smarter food safety. The General Counsel Roundtable session exemplified how food businesses had to adapt to navigate supply chain issues, labor issues, and remote work. Thus, ending the conference with a session on the future of food law was the perfect way to reflect on how food law has evolved and surmise its next evolution.

In the Future of Food Law session, Michael Roberts, the Executive Director of the Resnick Center, moderated a conversation with two of his former students, Evan Graham Arango and Jason Lawler. The conversation illustrated why food is currently top of mind for everyone, not just food lawyers. The pandemic forced us to think about where our food comes from. For many, it was the first experience with gardening or baking bread. For many, it was the first experience not finding numerous items on a grocery list. For many, it was the first or worst experience with food insecurity.

Evan Graham Arango, the owner, founder and farmer at Ojai Roots Farm in Ojai, California noted people’s interest in regenerative agriculture and eating locally. I’m speculating that many people, like me, watched documentaries about regenerative agriculture, such as Kiss the Ground and Biggest Little Farm, when they were stuck inside, and were inspired. Regenerative agriculture and its potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere brings to the forefront the connection between our food system and climate change

Jason Lawler, an associate at Sidley Austin LLP, elaborated on how his work around the business of food interfaces with climate change realities. Businesses are aware that consumers vote with their wallets, which encourages existing businesses to voluntarily offset carbon and new businesses to form with the goal of sequestering greenhouse gases.

Michael Roberts posits that the future of food will revolve around information. As artificial intelligence gives us more insights into what to grow, how to grow it, where to grow it, and when to market it, he wonders how to democratize that information and ensure fairness in data collection and ownership. As a consumer, I wonder how all that information will be relayed to me so I can make good food choices. To all the current and aspiring food lawyers, I look forward to seeing how we navigate the future of food law and reflecting on our progress at the next food law conference.    

*Alexa is graduating this year from UCLA Law. She graduated from UCLA with a BS in neuroscience with highest honors and a minor in biomedical research in 2017. At UCLA School of Law, she has been coexecutive chair of the Food Law Society and is currently chief managing editor of the Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. She is also a research assistant with the Resnick Center.

Food waste management in the US, UK and Japan

by Minako Kageyama Tanaka

This is the second of three blog posts by Minako Kageyama Tanaka* on food waste in the US, the UK, and Japan.

Food recovery hierarchy commonality and difference

How do the three countries tackle the food waste issue? The US, the UK and Japan articulate their food waste reduction strategies in their food recovery hierarchies. These hierarchies showcase available food waste reduction and recycling approaches and nudge people to take action in the order of least environmental impacts. Although the recovery steps in the three countries are not the same, the countries share many approaches. For example, all three countries start their hierarchy with the reduction of food waste sources. Redistribution of surplus to people and animals comes next, and recycling is the countries’ third preferable action.

However, each government’s recovery hierarchy differs slightly in its types of methods and actions. For instance, Japan is the only country among the three that specifically mentions using digestates for mushroom beds in its hierarchy. And the UK is the only country that sets landspreading in its hierarchy. These examples highlight these countries’ intentions to promote such recycling methods. 

Continue reading “Food waste management in the US, UK and Japan”

Call for experts – High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to world food security and nutrition. 

During its 46th plenary session, the Committee on World Food Security requested the HLPE to produce a report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition”. As part of the report elaboration process, the HLPE is now calling for interested experts to apply to the ad-hoc Project Team for this report.   

Experts wishing to apply to this call shall find all the information here.

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