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.

JOB POST! International Food Law and Policy Fellow at the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, UCLA Law

The Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy is looking for an International Food Law & Policy Fellow. Come join us! You can find the application here.

The International Food-Safety Law and Policy Fellow will research and write on innovative international best practices in food safety as part of the Resnick Center’s current scholarship on transformative governance models in food law. The fellow will work closely with faculty and staff at the Resnick Center and other researchers at UCLA and its project affiliates to research, analyze, and write a major report (the “Food-Safety Initiative”) on the transformation of food-safety best practices into policy. The research would include a focus on key concepts such as cooperation, information sharing, and partnership building. China will be one of several countries used as case studies.

The ideal candidate should have knowledge or interest in the field of international food policy and food systems theory, and have demonstrated capacity in analytical research and writing, with an ability to translate academic concepts to practical application.  

Open until filled.

JOB POST! Summer Internship, Food and Ag Law, Vermont Law School

Applications due January 14, 2022.

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School is seeking law student applicants for our Summer Honors Internship program. Interns will receive a $5,000 stipend to work full-time with CAFS from May 31 to August 5, 2022 (in Vermont or remotely). 

Interns will work alongside CAFS faculty and staff on a wide range of projects. In past summers, interns have worked on projects related to farmland access and equity; food labeling and regulation of novel food products; legal barriers facing food hubs; laws and regulations that protect the health and safety of farmworkers; legal resources for farmers markets; and biodiversity and agriculture. They have worked alongside project partners from Agrarian Trust, Farmers Market Coalition, and the Farm Bill Law Enterprise, among others. Tasks are dependent on project needs and may include legal research, drafting law and policy documents, conducting original research in the form of interviews and surveys, drafting case studies, and providing general support.

Vermont Law School’s Summer Session draws visiting faculty and lecturers from around the country and the world. Interns will have the opportunity to attend the summer lecture series and to meet with scholars and food system practitioners in small groups.

Continue reading “JOB POST! Summer Internship, Food and Ag Law, Vermont Law School”

JOB POST! Summer Internship, Harvard Law Food Law & Policy Clinic

Summer interns have the opportunity to engage in action-based learning to gain a deeper understanding of the complex challenges facing the food system, including hands-on experience conducting legal and policy research for individuals, community groups, and government agencies on a wide range of food law and policy issues. Interns are challenged to develop creative legal and policy solutions to pressing food issues, applying their knowledge from the law school classroom to real-world situations.

Summer interns will be eligible for a financial stipend of up to $4,000 from the Food Law and Policy Clinic, should they be unable to secure funding from other sources (we ask interns to demonstrate proof of having sought other funding but not receiving it). It is anticipated that the summer intern program will be in person this summer. 

The internship will run from May 31 to August 5.

Click here for the link to information and the application. The deadline to apply is 1/21/22, but early applications are strongly encouraged and applicants are being accepted on a rolling basis.

JOB POST! Center for Biological Diversity: Food and Agriculture Policy Specialist

Happy holiday season! Welcome to a new feature of On Food Law – job postings in food law and policy. As we come across them, we will post links to current job openings – the title of the post will always start with “Job Post” (for searches).

We will also post job openings on our Instagram stories (@uclafoodlawcenter).

Please keep in mind that we are not vetting or monitoring these openings, just posting. And please send any food law and policy job openings to winters@law.ucla.edu.

Click here for the CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: Food and Agriculture Policy Specialist listing.

Commentary – It is Time for the United States to Learn About the Right to Food.

by Hilal ElverMichael T. RobertsDiana R.H. Winters, and Melissa Shapiro

Cross-posted on HilalElver.org

On US Election Day 2021, the state of Maine voted in favor of a constitutional “right to food”—a historic development for a country that has long refused to recognize the human right to food.

Will the US finally acknowledge that this right actually exists?

Maine is officially the first US state to recognize a right to food. On Election Day this year, more than 60% of voters agreed that Maine should amend the state constitution “to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.” Put simply, those in Maine will have agency over how they procure their food within the bounds of food safety laws and quality controls. The “right to food” amendment, which was proposed by Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) and received bipartisan support, was welcomed by a diverse constituency comprising small farmers, libertarians, liberals and those who believe that local producers should not have to compete with corporate food interests.

 Observing how Maine practically applies the “right to food” amendment in furtherance of the stated objective is critical. It will be necessary for Maine legislators to work closely with other state agencies to ensure that emerging programs and policies do not violate federal and state laws. It is also important for future decision-making to involve open consultation and participation from civil society and private sector. Being a trailblazer means that the path forward is not always clear; but those who have already dismissed the historic amendment as an empty promise or inoperable language are missing the point: Maine’s constitutional amendment is a transformative step towards the United States’ formal recognition of the human right to food.

Continue reading “Commentary – It is Time for the United States to Learn About the Right to Food.”

Service with FoodCorps

by Lucy Weiss*

With a background in Food Studies, an interest in food law and policy, and a belief in the power of education, I was searching for ways to combine my passions when a professor recommended FoodCorps to me. FoodCorps is an AmeriCorps service fellowship program focusing on student access to healthy food in schools that partners with local community organizations and school districts around the U.S. Service members participate in three primary activities: providing hands-on lessons, encouraging healthy school meals, and promoting a schoolwide culture of health. For example, members teach gardening and cooking and facilitate taste tests of new and different foods, although the COVID-19 pandemic limits some of what we are able to do. A number of service members also work with the cafeteria staff and school districts to ensure healthy food options are available and promoted at school lunches. Each state and site partner have different needs and therefore service varies from position to position. 

Continue reading “Service with FoodCorps”

Community Gardens and Urban Farm: Land Acquisition

by Lucy Weiss*

Community gardens and urban farms are often thought of in conjunction with one another. After all, they share similarities; both are places where people, typically small-scale producers, come together to grow fruits and vegetables, and both provide consumers access to local produce. Both community gardens and urban farms benefit those who grow/purchase fresh produce, and the environment more generally. They recharge groundwater, prevent erosion, and mitigate dust impacts to cities. Community gardens and urban farms also face similar challenges including land acquisition, rising water rates, and climate change. Despite their overlaps, it is worth noting the distinctions between community gardens and urban farms, because these differences can  affect how they function. Urban farms typically have the goal of turning a profit whereas community gardens, which are run by residents and non profit organizations, tend to orient themselves toward education and facilitating relationships between people and nature. These divergent goals result in different models of operation. For instance, urban farms have fewer people doing more of the labor and getting paid for it. In community gardens, however, individuals often have their own plots of land and pay a membership fee to garden. Produce grown at community gardens is also eaten by individuals rather than sold for profit. Land acquisition also functions differently for urban farms and community gardens, which I will discuss in this post. 

Continue reading “Community Gardens and Urban Farm: Land Acquisition”

Changelab Solutions Webinar on Food Systems and Health Inequity

by Kyle Winterboer*

ChangeLab Solutions works nationwide to bring about healthier and equitable communities through law and policy. Their ongoing six-part virtual engagement series “Uprooting the Structural Drivers of Health Inequity” is focused on ways that organizations and advocates are addressing inequity in their efforts to improve outcomes. Their recent webinar was the fifth installations of the series, was focused on food systems, and featured an expert panel discussing Policy Solutions for a Values-Based Food System.

Previous episodes can be found on their website, and a recording of Monday’s Panel will be made available at: https://www.changelabsolutions.org/product/food-systems

Below find a list of the expert panelists. Additionally, find a summary by one of the Resnick Center’s Summer Research Assistants, Kyle Winterboer, who attended the webinar on Monday, June 28, 2021.

Expert Panel:

  • Jose Oliva, campaigns director, HEAL Food Alliance
  • Karen Bassarab, senior program officer, Food Communities & Public Health, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
  • Vinny Eng, community organizer and founding member, SF New Deal 
  • Abbey Piner, project lead, Community Food Strategies, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University
  • LaShauna Austria, Founder, Kindred Seedlings Farm, and Racial Equity Coach, Community Food Strategies
  • Nessia Berner Wong, senior policy analyst, ChangeLab Solutions (moderator)
Continue reading “Changelab Solutions Webinar on Food Systems and Health Inequity”

Further Solutions to the Honey Fraud Problem

This is the fourth of four posts by students in the UCLA Law Food Law and Policy Clinic on honey adulteration, honey litigation, and potential policy solutions to the problem of honey fraud.

By Terra Duchene, Aris Prince, Victoria Russell, Candace Yamanishi*

This post outlines the actors who can make a significant impact to the honey fraud problem and suggests potential starting points for solutions.

Beekeepers like Chris Hiatt are desperate for a solution. Honey adulteration is a threat to the survival of U.S. bees and beekeepers, which in turn, is a threat to food growing in the U.S., since 1/3 of the food grown in the U.S. depends directly or indirectly on bees. Just as the bee is endangered, so too is the U.S. beekeeper. The livelihood of essential beekeepers, the well-being and survival of honeybees, and, ultimately, the success of crops that are essential to our agricultural system, are being severely endangered by the relatively unknown but extremely large-scale adulteration of honey. Ultimately, putting a stop to honey fraud is vital to our environment and those who dedicate their lives to cultivating it. We must end honey adulteration in all its forms. 

Continue reading “Further Solutions to the Honey Fraud Problem”

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