Why Food Law is an Important Growing Field
To quickly summarize the importance behind Harvard’s new push to open a Food Law Lab:
- “Sell by” and “best by” dates on food have no relationship to safety and are not federally regulated. Americans throw 160 billion pounds of food a year.
- World’s biggest pork producer was purchased by a Chinese company with a jaded history.
- Some countries are now rejecting American grown products outright because of the controversial safety of genetically modified foods
- Agribusiness and meat industry are polluting air and groundwater
- Food workers don’t earn enough to feed their own families.
Drones and Agriculture
Will commercial agriculture be the largest beneficiary of unmanned aircraft?
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are controlled by GPS and have a variety of uses when it comes to agriculture. For example, UAVs can aid in scouting pests, collecting information on plants with high growth, locating livestock, and tracking precipitation damages.
From a regulatory standpoint, UAVs are not allowed commercially by the FAA. Farmers must therefore follow guidelines applicable to hobbyist UAV use.
An interesting extension of this is the argument that agriculture is growing too industrial, too focused on growth yield, and too far from sustainability. Conversely, drones are battery operated and can eliminate emissions from other aircraft and motor vehicles.
The Seventh Circuit released a recent opinion on a labor law issue at a poultry processing plant. In Mitchell v. JCG Industries, employees of a poultry processing plant sued for payment for time spent “doffing” before and after lunch breaks. Employees in the poultry plant are required to wear protective gear and uniforms. The employees claimed the process of robing and de-robing for breaks was taking 10-15 additional minutes of time for which they should be paid. The employer processing plant claimed the process took only 2-3 minutes.
Out of curiosity, Judge Posner ordered the poultry plant protective clothing and had three court staff go through the process.
In the end, the court found for the employer poultry plant. Apparently the court staff only took about three minutes to don the protective gear.
California bill SB1381 would deem any product ‘mislabeled’ if it is partially or entirely genetically engineered and the label does not say so. This bill is especially progressive because it allows any individual to sue the company for injunctive relief – that is, to halt mislabeled production until they appropriately disclose what contents are genetically modified. This bill is especially friendly to consumers because any consumer that sues for mislabeling would be able to have all attorney fees paid for by the offending company.