The Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School (FLPC) provides students with the opportunity to practice using legal and policy tools in order to address the health, environmental, and economic impacts of our food system. The FLPC utilizes substantive expertise in food law and policy and a robust policy skill set to assist clients and communities in understanding and improving the laws impacting the food system. Clinic projects aim to increase access to healthy foods, prevent diet-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and assist small farmers and producers in participating in food markets.
Students enrolled in the FLPC get hands-on learning experience conducting legal and policy research for individuals, communities, and governments on a wide range of food law and policy issues. Students have the opportunity, for example: to comment on major federal regulations, such as the Food and Drug Administration rules impacting food safety on the farm; to identify and promote creative policies to reduce the 40% of food that goes to waste in the U.S.; to train and empower food policy councils and other community coalitions to achieve their food system goals; and to research and recommend policies increasing access to healthy food at all levels of government.
Students will develop a variety of transferable skills in areas such as research, writing, creative problem-solving, project management, oral communication, and leadership. In particular, students will have the opportunity to draft memoranda, white papers, and regulatory comments; conduct statutory interpretation; compose legislation and regulations; petition for agency rulemaking or enforcement actions; conduct interviews and fact-finding; and prepare and train communities about civic engagement, the food system, and policy change. Clinic clients are located around the United States, and some students will have the opportunity to travel, as we work closely with partners in New England, as well as places like Mississippi, West Virginia, and Navajo Nation.
Students wishing to enroll in this clinic must enroll in the Food Law & Policy seminar in the fall or spring semester. The seminar will present an overview of topics in food law and policy, and will examine how these laws shape what we eat. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to a range of issues impacting the food system from farm to fork to landfill. In the past few years, major news stories have covered the federal farm bill, state GMO labeling laws, food safety outbreaks in China, and the misleading and unregulated terrain of expiration dates.
In order to better understand these issues and some of their root causes, we will examine food policy via the diverse lenses of farmers, consumers, and corporations, as well as using diverse disciplinary perspectives. We will concentrate on food law in the United States, but will also discuss the global food system, and will include comparative international perspectives in areas such as farming support, the right to food, and food system planning.
We begin the course by looking at federal agricultural policy and farm subsidies, and analyze the environmental, health, and safety implications of our agricultural system. We then discuss current debates regarding genetically modified foods and the legal issues surrounding various “eco-labels” such as organic, sustainable, local, and fair trade. The course also examines the role the government plays in determining what foods are consumed in the United States, through its Dietary Guidelines and food assistance programs. Finally, we will evaluate a range of existing and potential policy interventions at the federal, state, and local level.
The seminar is open to any student interested in food and agricultural policy and its implications on health and the environment, and no background or prerequisites are required.