Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law has a few places remaining in its face-to-face and distance tracks for Fall 2016, for full or part-time enrollment. With an expanded curriculum and a deep base of alumni relationships, our Program prepares attorneys for a career in agricultural and food law. Visit our website and our blog for additional information.

We have several remaining Graduate Assistantships (GAs) to award. GAs are only available to full time LL.M. candidates who enroll in our face-to-face program. These GAs provide for a full tuition waiver plus a $5,000 stipend per semester in exchange for part-time work designed to enhance the student's education and build their professional reputation. While awards may shift to accommodate the expertise of applicants, GA placements are likely to include:
  • An opportunity to work with firms practicing food law, including one placement with our alumna, Lauren Handel, Handel Food Law
General law school GAs may also be available and include 
  • An opportunity to work with Accelerated JD candidates from foreign jurisdictions, assisting them with their transition to a U.S. law school setting;  
  • An opportunity to teach a Pre-Law Political Science class that introduces undergraduates to basic elements of our legal system and encourages them to explore a legal education:
  • An opportunity to teach an Upper Level Legal Writing class that focuses on Civil Pre-Trial documents (opportunity limited to attorneys with practice experience and/or LRW teaching experience);
    Interested attorneys and graduating 3Ls should complete the LL.M. application and indicate their interest in one or more of the GA opportunities.  Awards are highly competitive. Contact us for additional information at LLM@uark.edu or call (479) 575-3706.
     
    It is always the goal of the LL.M. Program to attract candidates that reflect the rich racial, cultural, ethnic, and geographic diversity of a global food system, expanding the reach and resources to all who seek to promote food justice.

    Wednesday, May 04, 2016

    Some Thoughts on our Global Food System

    I began my day reading the blog post on the Marler Blog about the listeria traced to frozen vegetables. Bill Marler, Frozen Vegetables with Listeria Linked to Illnesses and Deaths in Washington, California and Maryland, Marler Blog (May 3, 2016).

    According to the post, "On April 23, 2016, CRF Frozen Foods recalled 11 frozen vegetable products because they may be contaminated with Listeria. On May 2, 2016, CRF Frozen Foods expanded the initial recall to include all organic and traditional frozen vegetable and fruit products processed in its Pasco, Washington facility since May 1, 2014."  CRF sells frozen vegetables under "various brand names."

    I had never heard of CRF Frozen Foods, so I decided to check which brands were affected. I think that most people would be astounded to see all of the different brands that CRF supplies. I was. Check out the FDA recall announcement and scroll through the pages of different brands listed.  All of those different established brands and private label brands all come from CRF.

    Note that this just tells consumers which brands are associated with the recalled CRF frozen foods, it doesn't list others that are not subject to the recall, and it doesn't provide any information about where the fruits and vegetables were grown.  The latter is probably not relevant to this listeria food safety problem, as it sounds as though the problems are connected with the Washington processing plant, but it does show how incredibly complex our food system has become -  even for a minimally processed food like frozen vegetables.

    Admittedly, knowing where your food comes from (or has been) does not mean that it is safe. But, it does provide information that a consumer can evaluate and provide some personal assessment of risk. In the global food system, however, even brand names provide little information.

    This led me to check the frozen peas I have in the freezer.  They are some of the most delicious frozen peas I have been able to find -  coming quite close to the home grown frozen peas that I ran out of several months ago.  I was pleased to see that my peas, pictured to the right were not included in the recall.

    However, I was surprised when I looked to see where they were grown.  I was startled to see confusing labeling and a variety of possibilities.

    They are stamped, "Product of Austria." Although immediately below this statement, the writing on the bag states, "We proudly support worldwide organic farming efforts. This product is responsibly sourced from the USA."

    The peas are distributed by Woodstock a company that lists its address as Providence, Rhode Island, and they are certified as organic by Quality Assurance International of San Diego, California.

    I presume that the stamped "Product of Austria" is the correct statement, but of course I have no way of knowing for sure.  I have nothing against Austrian peas, and as I said, these are delicious.

    But it does make me think that more U.S. farmers should consider raising organic peas, as shipping them in from Austria seems a little extreme. I don't know where they were processed or by whom, only that they were distributed by a Rhode Island company.

    Some may consider this as an example of the the wonders of our global food supply. And, on one level it is.

    Others, however, may find it disconcerting that they have no idea where their food comes from or what path it took to get to their plate. This might explain why so many people appreciate and prefer the local food they buy from a farmer at a farmer's market or farm stand.

    My honest reaction was that my family needs to grow more peas.  They freeze beautifully.




    Saturday, January 02, 2016

    Agro-ecological Dilemmas in California’s Central Valley

    From Wikimedia Commons: The California Central Valley as seen from 20,000 feet. This is a south-facing view of the area north of Modesto, and east of Stockton and Manteca, as identified by comparison with aerial photography.
    By Geoffrey Mohan, reporting from Fresno for the Los Angeles Times (December 31, 2015) 
    “It should have been a good year for turning wood and waste into electrons. A record-setting drought forced growers to bulldoze thousands of acres of trees, and hardly anyone in the Central Valley has permission to light bonfires anymore. But more than trees have withered in California’s sun. The state’s biomass energy plants are folding in rapid succession, unable to compete with heavily subsidized solar farms, many of which have sprouted up amid the fields and orchards of the San Joaquin Valley. Paul Parreira is painfully aware of the irony. The third-generation grower and almond processor is running out of dirt roads where he can spread ground-up almond shells, even as he expands a one-megawatt solar array on six acres of his family's property in Los Banos. 
    The waste-to-energy facilities where Parreira used to send about 50,000 tons of shells per year are vanishing. Six have closed in just two years, the latest in Delano, which shut down Thursday, after San Diego Gas & Electric ended its power purchase agreement. Twenty-five people were laid off, and 19 will remain to complete closure of the plant, said Dennis Serpa, fuels manager of the 50-megawatt plant, owned and operated by Covanta. 
    The Rio Bravo biomass facility south of Fresno is taking some of the fuel that would have gone to Delano. But short of a miracle, the 25-megawatt plant run by IHI Power Services Corp. will burn its last wood chips in July, when its power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. expires. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, meanwhile, is locked in a dispute with the 18-megawatt Buena Vista biomass facility in Ione, and has threatened to terminate its contract, according to district spokesman Christopher Capra. 
    The closures have forced the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to consider allowing more agricultural waste to be burned in open piles, which produces particulate matter and ozone-forming compounds associated with cardiovascular illnesses. Air quality already is notoriously bad throughout the district — four of the five dirtiest metropolitan areas, based on ozone and particulate measures, are in the valley, according to the American Lung Assn. Based only on measures of particulate matter, the Fresno-Madera area was the worst in the nation, followed by Bakersfield, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, and Modesto-Merced. [emphasis added] 
    A policy change on open burning would require extensive public hearings. But the district may have little choice.” [….] 
    The rest of the article from the Los Angeles Times is here.

    Sunday, December 20, 2015

    Agrarian Revolution: Marxist Sociology & Exemplary Social Science


    In the course of reading and research for a bibliography on “philosophy, psychology, and methodology for the social sciences,” I came across an intriguing discussion of a book by Jeffery M. Paige, Agrarian Revolution: Social Movements and Export Agriculture in the Underdeveloped World (New York: Free Press, 1975). Paige’s study is invoked by Harold Kincaid in Philosophical Foundations of the Social Sciences: Analyzing Controversies in Social Research (Cambridge University Press, 1996) as “an exemplary piece of social science research.”* I was particularly intrigued owing to my professional (such as it is, being an adjunct instructor) and political interest—to put it blandly—in (among other things) Marxism, for Paige is motivated by a Marxist sociological orientation in ascertaining “the primary causes of agrarian behavior, particularly in developing countries,” yet his study is not simply a predictable or banal academic exercise of “doctrinaire Marxism.” As Kincaid proceeds to show us, Paige “modifies the Marxist view at many places” while producing a “sophisticated statistical cross-national study of agrarian revolutions, revolts, and reform movements.”

    I am happy to be mistaken, but I think the subject matter of Paige’s research is one that has not appeared (at least directly) to date on this blog. The research, hypothesis and conclusion of Agrarian Revolution well demonstrates how good social science (or good natural science, for that matter) is not constrained by “formalized theories with tight deductive structures” in producing well-confirmed explanations, in this instance, “large-scale macrosociological claims being “backed up with lower-level mechanisms.” In brief, “good [natural and social] science can proceed without theories,” at least “theory” as understood by positivists, including most post-positivists. Kincaid helps us appreciate precisely why we should be perfectly content with “batches of particular causal explanations” sans any formal theoretical edifice. He provides a number of reasons why the absence of theory should not be construed as a fatal flaw, only one of which I cite:

    “Confirmation and explanation can proceed without theories. Obviously even singular causal claims can be confirmed without us having access to any very elaborate theory, for we do so constantly in everyday life when we see the rock broke the window or the nail puncture the tire. Moreover, the low-level generalizations that make up much social science do have numerous epistemic ties to other generalizations, specific facts, and so on. Such ties fall short of a deductively closed, axiomatized system, but they nonetheless provide room for cross tests, fair tests, and independent tests—as indicated by the fact that much testing in natural science depends on skills that may not be explicitly described or describable, on piecemeal knowledge, and the like, as Kuhn pointed out. Finally…[as argued earlier], universality and unification are not essential to explanation, hence one main motivation for demanding highly developed theories is misplaced. So the causal accounts produced by the social sciences can provide well-confirmed explanations without providing extensive theories.”

    Paige’s primary hypothesis—perhaps not surprising given his sociological background in Marxism—is that “class structure largely determines political behavior in developing countries.” The preface to Agrarian Revolution, however, puts this hypothesis in socio-economic and political context and proffers several reasons why it’s worthy of social scientific examination and “testing.” For many if not most of Paige’s reading public, the specific subject matter is not one they’ll be intimately familiar with, for it focuses

    “on the politics of people who draw their living from the land, both those who perform the physical labor of cultivation in the fields and plantations of the underdeveloped world and those share the proceeds of this labor in the form of rent, profits, interest, and taxes. It is also a book about conflict over the wealth produced by the land, the control of the land itself, the political power that makes that control possible, and, in many cases, the survival of one class or another. This conflict is frequently a matter of small bargains and local compromises, but from time to time it explodes into revolutionary movements which engulf whole societies, and it is these agrarian revolutions in the export economies of the underdeveloped world in general and in the cases of Peru, Angola, and Vietnam in particular which are the principal concerns of this book. Although these rural social movements involve extraordinary rather than ordinary political happenings, the politics of revolutionary change, like the politics of everyday life, is shaped by the relationship between upper and lower classes in rural areas. The nature of this conflict and political choices open to both classes are limited by the irreducible role of land in agriculture and by the compelling force of the international market in agricultural commodities. If conflicts between cultivators and noncultivators so often lead to hard choices between repression and revolution, it is because the control of landed property and the exigencies of efficient production leave them with few other alternatives. Both upper and lower agrarian classes use force in economic conflicts not because they have not carefully considered all possible alternatives, but because they have. There is a calculus of force just as orderly and rational in its way as the principles of economics, and despite the passions which surround this violence, it is important to realize that men risk their lives only with the greatest reluctance; when, in Peru, Angola, or Vietnam, they do so, it is usually because their opponents have left them with no other choice.”

    Relatedly, we should recall with Paige the geo-political dynamics of the period in question, especially as they involve U.S. foreign policy (as well the behavior of transnational corporations and capitalist investors) in the various regions of the “underdeveloped” world:

    “…[I]t is important to note at the outset that this book grows out of the fundamental questions raised by United States involvement in revolutionary movements in the underdeveloped world in general and Vietnam in particular. In Peru, Angola, Vietnam, and many other areas of the underdeveloped world the United States has chosen to side with the landlords and plantation owners against the peasants, sharecroppers, and agricultural laborers who took up arms against them. American military alliances, American trained officers, American military aid and equipment, and, finally, American armed forces have been used either singly or in combination, against the peasants of the Peruvian sierra, the contract laborers of northern Angola, and the tenant farmers of the Mekong delta of Vietnam. [….] At minimum, then, this book attempts to raise the question of whether most of us, had we been in the selva of Peru, the jungles of Angola, or the rice paddies of Vietnam, would have supported the landlords or the laborers.”
    The historical, socio-economic, and political scene in place, we’ll let Kincaid introduce the specific agrarian economic systems that form the backbone of both Paige’s principal and ancillary hypotheses: 

    “The social classes in agrarian systems are of two basic kinds, depending on whether they are composed of cultivators or non-cultivators. Cultivators include sharecroppers, resident wage laborers, peasants with small holdings, and usufructuaries; noncultivators are the landed aristocracy and agricultural corporations. These cultivators and noncultivators in turn fall into different classes depending on the source of their income, in particular on whether their income comes primarily from land, capital, or wages.

    Four basic agrarian class systems are thus possible. In the first type of system, both cultivators and non-cultivators draw their income primarily from rights to the land than from capital or wages. The most common system of this type is the commercial hacienda or manor. It is an individually owned enterprise which does not depend essentially on power-driven processing machinery or other similar capital investments; its workers typically receive compensation by rights to cultivate small plots of land. In the second type of system, non-cultivators draw their income from the land and workers are paid in wages. Usually these systems involve large estates with little or no power-driven machinery and workers who are either sharecroppers or migratory wage laborers. In the third type, non-cultivators draw their income in large part from capital investments and workers are paid in wages. Plantations owned by a commercial cooperation typify this sort of system. Crops are processed on site by power-drive machinery and workers are more or less permanent residents who are paid in money-wages. In the fourth type, non-cultivators depend primarily on capital and the cultivators depend primarily on land. Prime examples include small family farms or small-holding peasants producing a cash crop and sold to a large agricultural corporation.

    Paige predicts that these different economic systems will produce different types of political behavior. To derive these specific hypotheses, Paige looks at how income source affects cultivators and non-cultivators separately. Using those hypotheses he then predicts what happens when those separate behaviors are combined in the four basic class systems.”

    For reasons of length and wanting to avoid testing the reader’s patience, we’ll omit the specific hypotheses as they pertain to cultivating and non-cultivating classes and behavior and share the conclusion he draws from them that permits Page “to predict how different class systems affect agrarian political behavior.”

    [1.] “When owners depend upon capital and cultivators on wages (as in large plantations), Paige predicts that cultivators will engage in collective action, but action limited to economic issues such as wages and working conditions and action that ends in compromise settlements. Because of their laboring conditions, cultivators will act collectively over economic issues. Owners, however, are economically strong and generally have an increasing pie to divide; moreover, owners are not seriously dependent on political protection by the state, and their workers can legally act collectively over economic issues. Disputes over will thus not be naturally transformed into disputes over political power, and compromise will be the name of the game. (Paige thus argues against Marx here.)

    [2.] The small holding system will likewise produce limited challenges to political authority. Cultivators will draw income from the land and sell products in the market. They will thus be risk averse and divided between rich and poor, reducing the prospects for collective action. If collective action over economic issues occurs, it will not involve challenges to political authority nor be long-lived. The commercial class, which owns the factories processing the products from small-holders, does not depend on political protection and is not involved in a zero-sum game. Moreover, the market mediates its relation to small holders, thus minimizing conflict. So small holding systems should result in limited protests over credit, market prices, and the like—what Paige calls a reform commodity movement.

    [3.] When both cultivators and non-cultivators get their income from the land, we can expect a more severe conflict. Owners are economically weak, dependent upon the state for protection, and unable to compromise by sharing gains in productivity with cultivators. Cultivators are typically without political rights. This combination of factors means economic disputes cannot easily be settled and will naturally spread to issues about land ownership and property redistribution. However, the cultivators are subject to all the factors that undercut collective action. So cultivator movements should not become revolutionary movements, unless other forces like urban political parties intervene to introduce organization from the outside. So, in Paige’s terminology, ‘revolts’ may occur, but sustained support for thoroughgoing political revolution should be rare.

    [4.] Finally, upper-class land income and cultivator income in wages make for the most explosive situation. The upper class is economically pressed, weak, unable to compromise through sharing productivity gains, and dependent on state protection. Cultivators typically are not divided along income lines and have no property to lose in collective action. So economic disputes should be frequent and should quickly become disputes over political authority, since the upper class depends upon political force to maintain itself. Revolutionary movements should thus be most frequent when this class system predominates.”

    Kincaid’s succinct discussion of Paige’s evidence, in other words, its “previous research, mostly case studies…; a world study looking primarily for correlations between economic systems and political behavior; case studies of Peru, Angola and Vietnam;” his hypotheses and their ceteris paribus qualification; and the ability to explain away “the most obvious exceptions to his hypothesis” [e.g., Malayan agricultural wage earners who worked on rubber estates and became involved in revolutionary movements], concludes that this compelling (informal) theory of agrarian movements displays the traits of good science: “It exhibits the evidential virtues summarized by independent, fair, and cross tests. Though its laws are qualified ceteris paribus, it confirms those claims by applying testing methods common in the natural sciences. Paige’s theory also seems to have explanatory virtues: it explains by providing relevant causal generalizations. Those causal generalizations, of course, describe tendencies or partial causal factors. Yet Paige’s testing procedures provide good evidence that those tendencies are actually operative.” 

    * Kincaid misspells Paige’s first name—as Jeffrey—in both the body of the text and in the bibliography.  

    Thursday, November 26, 2015

    Giving Thanks

    Giving Thanks, Horace Pippin (1942)

    “Enough is as good as a feast.”— Sir Thomas Malory (d. 1471) 
    “When you drink water, remember the mountain spring.”— of Chinese provenance
    “When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”— of Vietnamese provenance

     “Gratitude” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Saturday, November 07, 2015

    UCLA Resnick Program Issues New Report on Food Equity and Law Schools

    The Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy at UCLA School of Law recently released an excellent report, Food Equity, Social Justice, and the Role of Law Schools:  A Call to Action, researched and written by Kim Kessler and Emily Chen. The Report was written as part of the University of California’s Global Food Initiative. This system-wide initiative "challenges campuses to develop solutions for one of the most pressing issues of our time: the 'quest to establish global food security and address related challenges of nutrition and sustainability.'"  Michael T. Roberts serves as the Director of the Resnick Program.

    The report articulates the need for law schools to "more visibly and holistically address this pressing societal challenge," and it considers how law schools across the nation are currently addressing the "social, economic, and environmental injustice in our current food system." It highlights the ongoing work within the California system.  It then provides a compelling impetus for law schools to do more to confront the inequities within our food system and to integrate more food policy and food justice into the law school curriculum. We applaud the Resnick Center for putting out this "call to action."

    Several law schools receive special recognition in the Report with a case study describing the school's work in this area. I was proud to have our work at the University of Arkansas as the first school acknowledged. The Report notes that "[i]n the field of food law and policy, the University of Arkansas School of Law has been foundational. For decades, the law school has been at the cutting edge of food and agricultural law and scholarship." Both the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the Food Recovery Project were referenced as examples of our outreach and national recognition. Our overall integrated and interdisciplinary approach is recognized, as we attempt to merge issues of sustainability, food security, food system resilience, and social justice throughout our curriculum.

    Four of our classes "from [our] extensive curriculum" are highlighted as excellent examples of work in promoting food equity:
    • Food Justice: Law & Policy (course created and taught by Nicole Civita);  
    • The Right to Food (course created and taught by Uche Ewelukwa); 
    • Business, Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Food/Ag Sector (course created and taught by Uche Ewelukwa); and 
    • Legal Issues in Indigenous Food & Agriculture (course created and taught by Janie Hipp and Erin Shirl).
    We are in excellent company. Beyond the opportunities presented within the University of California system, several other schools that received case study recognition:
    • The Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law "has made food law and policy one of its central focuses, with projects at all levels of government;"
    • Harvard Law School is recognized as home to the "first Food Law and Policy Clinic in the Nation;"
    • The University of Michigan Law School’s Community and Economic Development Clinic, has been "working to create the legal backbone of the 'good food economy'" in Detroit; 
    • New York University School of Law's International Human Rights Clinic of the Center for Human Right and Global Justice has undertaken "numerous research and advocacy projects that focused on food and agricultural policies and on the right to food;" and,
    • An independent food justice project conducted through a Local Government class at Stanford Law School resulted in a new law in the state of California, Assembly Bill 551—the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act.
    The Report concludes that a lack of awareness of food equity issues and research constraints are two of the main challenges deterring law schools from additional work in this area.  It then presents a series of thoughtful recommendations going forward.
    Foundational to any recommendations for mobilizing law schools to address food equity issues is the importance of developing a shared understanding of: (1) the effects of our current food system on the health and economic mobility of disadvantaged communities throughout the food chain— from production to distribution (farm to fork), and (2) the resulting social and legal issues lawyers and law schools are in a unique position to address, and which can provide essential skills training for law students. 
    The report encourages schools to frame engagement in food equity issues as both an opportunity for students to engage in experiential learning and to recognize their law degree “as an empowering degree—how to use law in a rule of law society”. [citation omitted] It suggests that schools leverage existing classes, clinics, and experiential programs to capture the potential overlap with food equity and to innovate in the formation of partnerships. Practical suggestions, with best practices and implementation strategies are provided.

    I hope that the Resnick Program's Call to Action will be heard far and wide. There is rewarding and challenging work to be done in this critical area.

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    César Chávez & the United Farm Workers: A Basic Bibliography


    My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers is here
    “Humor and kinship among veterans led members of the Rebel Chicano Air Front to adopt the ironic name of the Royal Chicano Air Force after their acronym—RCAF—was misidentified with the Canadian military. Operating out of their Sacramento, California headquarters (the Centro de Artistas Chicanos), they organized community programs, designed murals, and printed posters in support of the United Farm Workers Union. This collaborative spirit shines in Hasta La Victoria Siempre, c/s, a print by Luis (or Louie ‘the Foot’ González), based on his brother Héctor’s photograph of a United Farm Workers pro-labor rally. Interested in concrete poetry, Luis González wove the typed words long live, strike, and tomorrow into a fluid pattern.”

    On Golden Rice

    Around the world, between a quarter and half a million children go blind each year as a result of a deficiency in vitamin A and within twelve months, half of them die. Golden Rice was created to tackle this problem, by genetically engineering Vitamin A into the rice grain. It is golden because its vitamin A comes from beta carotene, which also puts the orange in carrots. One of the areas of the world where Golden Rice is designed to be consumed is Asia, where a high proportion of calories are derived from rice consumption, and where vitamin A deficiency is endemic. [….] The technology presents itself as a feel-good solution for politicians who’d rather not face the more profound, persistent and difficult questions of politics and distribution. There’s more than enough vitamin A to go around. Half a carrot contains the recommended dose of vitamin A. The plain fact is that the majority of children in the Global South suffer and die not because there is insufficient food, or because beta-carotene rice is nationally lacking. They are malnourished and undernourished because all their parents can afford to feed them is rice.

    The best that crops such as Golden Rice can do is to provide supplement in diets where nutrients are unavailable. And when a balanced diet is unavailable, the cause has more to do with poverty than with anything that can be engineered into the crop. It is absurd to ask a crop to solve the problems of income and food distribution, of course. But since this is precisely the root cause of vitamin A deficiency, the danger of crops such as Golden Rice is not merely that they are ineffective publicity stunts. They actively prevent serious discussions of ways to tackle systemic poverty.—Raj Patel, in Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing, 2008): 136-37. 
    “Few GM crops are discussed as much — and misunderstood as much — as ‘Golden Rice.’”
     
    By Glenn Davis Stone (Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis)
    August 28, 2015

    Golden Rice is modified to produce beta carotene in the endosperm, rather than only in the bran as in most rice. Beta carotene is a vitamin A precursor, and the hope was that this invention would mitigate Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which in extreme cases can cause blindness or death in malnourished children. After appearing on the cover as Time in 2000 as a rice that ‘could save a million kids a year,’ Golden Rice has been a nearly ubiquitous talking point in GMO arguments. As a high-flying GM superfood, it is without peer.

    But the battles over Golden Rice have been particularly heated even by the usual standards of GMO bombast. Critics see it as an unproven, expensive, and misguided band aid—a Trojan Horse to open the floodgates of GM crops into the global south (Brooks 2010:76-83; RAFI 2000). Industry spokesmen, impassioned molecular biologists, and partisan journalists charge that children are being left blind by GMO critics having slowed the rice; hired activist Patrick Moore tirelessly (and cartoonishly) blames Greenpeace — which he claims to have founded — for ‘murdering’ children (AllowGoldenRiceNow.org 2015).

    Confusingly, other biotechnologists claim that Golden Rice is already in use and that it has ‘helped save many, many lives and improved the quality of life of those who eat it’ (Krock 2009; also see Thomson 2002:1). These claims cause considerable discomfort to the scientists who are actually doing the Golden Rice breeding (Dubock 2014:73).

    All the shouting tends to cover up a crucial issue with Golden Rice: who is it for, exactly?  Proponents usually discuss it as a vitamin tablet headed for generic underfed children in ‘poor countries’ (Beachy 2003), or ‘developing countries’ (Enserink 2008), or occasionally ‘Asia’ (Dawe and Unnevehr 2007).

    But here’s the problem.  Golden Rice is not just a vitamin tablet headed for malnourished kids wherever they may be.  It’s not a tablet at all; it’s rice, the most widely consumed and arguably the most culturally freighted crop in the world (e.g., Ohnuki-Tierney 1993). And it is headed specifically for the Philippines.  Golden Rice got its start in the Philippines (Enserink 2008), and it’s being bred and tested in a research institution in the Philippines, to be approved by the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry, to be sold in Philippine markets to Philippine growers and potentially fed to Filipino children.   (Breeders and researchers in Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh are also working with Golden Rice, but release is not on the horizon in any of these countries.)  Most discussions of Golden Rice ignore this Philippine context. Even economic analyses purporting to calculate ‘The Cost of Delaying Approval of Golden Rice’ (Wesseler, et al. 2014) make no mention of the Philippines. [….]

    The remainder of Professor Stone’s blog post (including the sources cited) is here.

    See too these blog posts by Marion Nestle: “Proponents of food biotechnology are still talking about Golden Rice? Sigh,” and “Retraction of the Golden Rice paper: an issue of ethics.” 

    I have some titles germane to the discussion in two compilations: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: Toward Agroecology & Food Justice)—A Basic Bibliography, and The Ethics, Economics, and Politics of Global Distributive Justice: A Select Bibliography.

    Saturday, September 19, 2015

    Request for Article Submissions

    The Journal of Food Law & Policy at the University of Arkansas School of Law is seeking submissions.

    There may be space for one more article in the Fall publication, offering a quick turn around on publication. That issue will be going to the publisher in December.

    Articles for the Spring publication can be submitted anytime this semester.

    Over the years, the Journal student editors and staff have been proud to publish works by some of the most recognized leaders in the food law community.  Last Spring, they celebrated their tenth anniversary with a live-streamed symposium featuring Neil Hamilton, Peter Barton Hutt, Michael Roberts, and myself.

    Submission can be made by direct delivery via e-mail to foodlaw@uark.edu.  Please include a brief abstract and CV or resume with each submission.  

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Animal Drugs in Livestock Production: Raised without Ractopamine Labeling

    NPR A Muscle Drug for Pigs Comes Out of the Shadows
    This summer, an article that I wrote was published in the Duke Environmental Law Forum. Beyond the Food We Eat: Animal Drugs in Livestock Production, 25 Duke Envtl L. Forum 227 (2015).

    In the article, I describe the pervasive use of pharmaceuticals in the livestock industry and raise concerns about the environmental hazards associated with more than a billion tons of animal waste containing antibiotics, hormones, and beta agonists.  I complain about lax regulation and an FDA animal drug approval process that relies almost exclusively on drug manufacturer testing.  Some of my suggestions to address these problems call for more transparency and more consumer awareness. One suggestion specifically calls for the use of labeling that identifies animals raised without specific drugs.

    I am pleased to report that NPR just did a story on what appears to be the first approval of a "Produced without the use of ractopamine" label for pork.  Dan Charles, A Muscle Drug For Pigs Comes Out Of The Shadows, NPR Morning Edition, republished on The Salt, an NPR Blog (Aug. 14, 2015).

    Unlike products regulated by FDA, meat labels have to be pre-approved by USDA.  As the NPR story points out, the USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) initially rejected the label, but recently approved it.  Interesting story -  here it is:

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    John Oliver: Food Waste on Last Week Tonight

    Pleased to see John Oliver take on the issue of food waste.

    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Walmart Announces Policies on Animal Welfare and Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production

    On May 22, Walmart announced its new policy on animal welfare and antibiotic use, Walmart U.S. Announces New Animal Welfare and Antibiotics Positions:  Company Outlines Expectations for Suppliers to Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S., as Part of Commitment to Sustainable Supply Chain.

    As the world's largest food retailer, Walmart often sets the standards for the supply chain. This has been cast in terms of lowering the bar for production standards as a means of lowering costs. Sometimes, however, as in this case, Walmart can also decide to raise the bar.

    The announcement includes Walmart's support for the "globally recognized 'Five Freedoms' of animal welfare." For example, included in the announcement is a call to suppliers to "[f]ind and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns in housing systems. . . "

    The announcement also takes on the pervasive use of antimicrobials in livestock and poultry production. It supports the elimination of the "growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics" and calls for "limiting antimicrobial treatment to animals that are ill or at risk."

    Admittedly, "at risk" can be interpreted to allow for much of the current use of antimicrobials in the livestock and poultry industries, as low levels of antibiotics are used to "prevent" disease in crowded conditions.  It is a first step, however.

    And, the announcement also calls for public reporting on "antibiotic use on an annual basis."  This would seem to indicate support for the FDA's recent proposal to gather data on antibiotic use on a species basis.  Current reporting is only available to FDA by overall industry sales, and it is generic in terms of use. Greater transparency could have a significant impact on the market.

    In sharp contrast to the "ag gag" laws in some states, the notice uses the term "transparency" seven times in the one page announcement.

    This is the latest word from Walmart on its Commitment to a Sustainable Food System. Last October, Walmart announced this commitment, noting that food is its "biggest product category." It announced its four pillars of commitment:

    1) Affordable: Continuing to reduce the “true cost” of food.

    2) Accessible: Fighting hunger by providing for those in need.

    3) Healthier: Making eating healthy easier.

    4) Safe and Transparent: Showing consumers where food comes from.

    It will be interesting to see how seriously Walmart takes these commitments, how much pressure they put on their livestock and poultry suppliers, and what timeframe they have in mind.  Currently, many suppliers are a long way from these goals.  But, they should be on notice.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    If you're going to eat cattle...

    The (edited) article below from today’s Los Angeles Times (May 20, 2015) is by Jared Stone, a television producer and author of Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family (Flatiron Books, 2015). Although I am not an omnivore, presumably the vast majority of readers are omnivorous, in which case this should be of some interest.

    If you’re going to eat cattle, let them eat grass.

    “Stories about impending environmental apocalypse circulate almost daily, especially in drought-ravaged California. Many of these stories tend to blame agriculture — and specifically, beef — for gobbling up our resources. Though numbers vary widely and are hotly contested, some researchers estimate that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce each pound of beef. The real problem, however, isn’t cattle. It’s industrial feedlots, where more than 70% of U.S. cattle eventually live. 

    In an industrial feedlot, potentially thousands of animals are packed together in an enclosure of bare, unproductive dirt. Nothing grows there. Operators have to bring in water for the cattle to drink, and for the enormous manure ponds that contain the cattle’s waste. But the majority of the water used in raising industrial cattle goes into growing their feed. These operations are tremendously resource-intensive.

    If you eat beef, grass-fed cattle are a better option. Those cattle are a healthy part of a larger ecosystem. Raised where grass grows, these cattle don’t need manure ponds. While they do need a source of drinking water, a rain-fed pond suffices in most cases. In turn, the animals’ grazing improves the health of the grassland, often dramatically, and increases the ecosystem's water retention. These cattle, moreover, can graze on marginal land that doesn’t have any other agricultural worth. [….]

    [R]ecent research suggests that properly managed grass-fed cattle can help capture and store carbon in grassland soil. In addition to making the soil more nutrient-rich and better able to hold water, one study found this process happening at a rate that could actually help offset the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. It also showed that properly managed cattle pastures had levels of soil organic matter comparable with those of native forests.

    Of course, if there isn’t enough rain for very much grass, there isn’t enough rain for very many grass-fed cattle. That’s where we are now in California. [….]

    According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste an estimated 30% of the food we produce. Reducing that percentage would greatly increase the efficient use of natural resources, including water. Faced with the harsh long-term realities of climate change and the immediacy of the California drought, the choice is clear: If we’re going to eat cattle, let them eat grass.

    For the entire article, see here. The images were serendipitously located here.

    In the same vein, but with a different farm animal, please see Barry Estabrook’s Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015).