Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A forum for thoughts on food law -- past, present and future


My name is Michaela Oldfield, I am the Global Food Law research fellow with the Michigan State University Global Food Law program. This blog is a place for GFL faculty and students and the Institute for Food Laws and Regulations (IFLR) faculty and students to share thoughts and ideas on food law issues.

Michaela Oldfield
The goal of this blog is to have a space for students and alums of the program to expand their education on global food law by providing a forum for summaries and thoughtful critiques of current food law issues and materials being covered in the courses.

Most posts will be authored by me or by Neal Fortin, whom many of you already know as the Director of the Institute for Food Laws and Regulations (IFLR) and Global Food Law programs at Michigan State University. However, occasionally there will be guest posts from faculty, affiliates and students within the program. If you are a student or alum of the program -- and have thoughts to share -- please contact communications manager Mark Meyer (meyerm18@anr.msu.edu) to discuss content.

As a new face to the program, I think a little background on me is in order. I have a J.D. from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Michigan State in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies[1]. My dissertation research was on the Food Safety Modernization Act, [2] but my interests cover a range of regulatory issues from field to fork to waste.

I like spending my time thinking about how to design, adopt and implement regulations that balance the diversity of interests affected by food and agriculture policy (without being captured too much by special interests) and are flexible and dynamic to the constantly changing world around us (but without being dysfunctionally unpredictable).

Luckily, that is much of what I will be doing here! Being the Global Food Law Research Fellow means I get to interact with food professionals, lawyers, academics and government officials to identify, understand and help educate people on the numerous ways food law and policy is evolving and impacting globalized agri-food systems.

You’ll be seeing a broad array of issues in my blog posts, beginning with my first post which will examine the FDA's recent re-opening of the ‘natural’ can of worms and the history, law, and politics of labelling law and food production. I might then turn to law’s role in individual health and the economic, social, and environmental impacts of fruits and vegetables (i.e. FDA’s produce rule!) with maybe some Farm Bill 101  thrown in because I see them as intimately interrelated. Or I might explore how taking jurisprudence relates to agricultural risk, economic equity, public health and food security. Or, you know, whatever other issue piques my fancy that week.

So sit back and enjoy because it promises to be a Candyland kind of adventure (I leave it to you to decide which characters and places in the game are most analogous).

[1] The department’s name is now Community Sustainability.
[2] The short version of it is that the government agencies (specifically the FDA in my case) struggle to regulate global supply chains and dynamic markets.  At the same time, private actors such as NGOs and businesses have developed systems of private regulation which often involve standards for production practices and product quality, third party audits, and certifications – in short, this is private regulation that replicates, replaces, competes with, and augments government regulation. Learning about private regulation led me to ask questions about how do public and private actors and regimes interact to regulate food systems, with what consequences, and what should we do about it? For my dissertation, I used the FSMA as a case study for examining food safety governance in the United States, but  these systems of private and public-private regulation also cover many other food issues (such as organics and labor production) and occur in many other policy domains, such as fisheries and forestry management and corporate social responsibility.

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