As I proudly relayed earlier today, some colleagues of mine are putting together a Continuing Legal Education Course at Pace University School of Law in October. That is a good sign that the practice area we happy few call “Food Law” is growing and gaining legitimacy. Via Baylen Linnekin of Keep Food Legal and Reason, we have some firm indication that if the public has its way, more food laws and regulations will be headed to a specialized law office near you. Apparently, the public loves regulation in the food industry. I say “public” as in “general public”, regardless of political affiliation.
In his latest piece for reason, Baylen conducts an interview with Jayson Lusk, agricultural economist at Oklahoma State University and recent author of a recent study, The Political Ideology of Food. Respondents to Lusk’s survey were most in favor of additional government action related to food safety, but quality, public health, and agricultural policies such as subsidies were other predominant concerns. Lusk found that this was true even among groups ideologically predisposed to disfavor regulation, such as libertarians. Key quote from Baylen’s interview:
…libertarians, in fact, prefers less regulation on farm policy issues and less regulation on what I call “food quality and quality” issues. It is only “food safety” issues where the libertarians prefer more regulation. When I look specifically at what most of them said they preferred, it tended to relate to a desire to have more mandatory labeling of foods according to origin of production and use of genetic modification, cloning, irradiation, or nanotechnology. I can only speculate about why such preferences were expressed among libertarians, but perhaps it relates to a belief that labels promote “truth in advertising” or provide information needed to avoid deception in trade among food sellers and buyers.
We have a contentious political culture – no doubt – but I find it interesting that despite the divisions the one thing everyone can agree on is more food regulation. I applaud the efforts of groups like Keep Food Legal, which strives for a regulatory climate more favorable to entrepreneurs and smaller scale producers. But if this study is accurate, or if the public’s inclination is indicative of a future trend, we could see more laws and regulations in the food industry that will occupy us Food Lawyers.