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Food Law

This guide provides an overview of Food Law and its resources.

Getting Started

Food law is a general subject governed by many types of law. Researchers should first establish the jurisdiction and scope of their problem. Some problems have an international component to them, such as issues involving geographic indicators, scarcity, and Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling. Other issues are governed by federal, state or local law. Much of U.S. food law is highly regulated by federal agencies. Accordingly, researchers will often find that starting at the website of the agency that regulates the issue in question (often the FDA or the USDA) will get them started on the right track.

While starting with food law-specific sources may be helpful, much of food law may be described as another substantive area of law but merely dealing with food. For example, an issue involving the deregulation of a GMO has as much to do with food law as it does administrative law. As such, it will likely be helpful for a researcher to explore resources that deal with administrative law and apply those same principals to the specific food law issue. Similarly, when working with issues related to geographic indicators, food libel, or seed patents, a researcher would benefit from looking to an international intellectual property, constitutional law, or patent law treatise, respectively. With that in mind, researchers should take some time to see if their issues involve other major areas of law that may have their own treatises. Food law issues can crop up in a lot of different practice areas, and researchers shouldn't limit themselves to resources that have the word "food" in their title.

As mentioned, much of U.S. food law is regulatory in nature. Accordingly, familiarity with general administrative law prinicipals will help researchers navigate the different rule-making and agency decision processes. Depending on your level of familiarity with the area, you may want to consult an administrative law hornbook or nutshell (both are on reserve at the Circulation Desk). Or, for Colorado agencies, please see our Colorado Administrative Law Guide.

Finally, many food law issues intersect or overlap with environmental concerns. In both areas of law, particularly when dealing with regulatory agencies, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the science involved. For example, it will generally be difficult to understand legal issues surrounding seed patents without knowing anything about seeds. Thankfully, many of the resources listed below will provide some basic science background for the areas they cover. However, be sure to look to the agriculture or environmental sciences literature and resources if you do not have a good grasp of the underlying scientific issues in your research problem.

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