I'm Quoted in Great N.Y. Times Front-Page Piece on Regulations Impacting Small Apple Farmers

Earlier this week, the front page of the New York Times featured a thoughtful, well-researched article on ways that many regulations impact smaller food producers. That topic is at the heart of much of my research and writing, including my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable.

The great Times piece, by staff investigative reporter Steve Eder, focuses specifically on rules impacting small apple growers. It also quotes me at length. Here's a snip:

“So many of the farmers I’ve spoken with tell me that stricter and stricter regulations have put many of their neighbors and friends out of business, and in doing so cost them their homes, land and livelihoods,” said Baylen Linnekin, a libertarian-leaning expert in food law and policy, in an email. “For many farmers, rolling back regulations is the only way they can survive.”

[...]

Mr. Linnekin, the food lawyer and author of “Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable,” predicted the new requirements would not lead to significant improvements in food safety.

“Instead, the result will likely be more of what we’ve experienced over the past few decades as regulations have ratcheted up,” he said. “More of our fruits and vegetables will be grown by large domestic producers who can afford to comply with the regulations — at the expense of smaller competitors — and by produce farmers abroad.”

I encourage you to click through and read the whole article. It's a balanced, refreshing look by the mainstream media at the issue of overregulation of food production and sales at a time when many politicians in Washington, D.C. at least claim to be taking a hard look at the problem.

In case you're long on time and short on things to read as the calendar turns to 2018, this week also saw publication of my latest op-ed, this one a look at a multi-state lawsuit against California over the latter's ban on some out-of-state eggs, which appears in the Orange County Register and several other leading Southern California newspapers.

Food Safety News Gives 'Biting the Hands that Feed Us' Thumbs Up

Food Safety News, the leading U.S. food-safety website, founded by Seattle food-safety litigator extraordinaire Bill Marler, has a nice writeup on me and my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us. Here's an excerpt from the piece, written by Food Safety News editor Dan Flynn:

In the book, Linnekin can be blunt. He says FDA rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act “threaten to treat small farmers like manure and to treat manure–the lifeblood of organic fertilization and sustainable farming–as a toxin.”

Linnekin looks at how FDA threatened the livelihoods of “artisanal cheesemakers and beer brewers of all sizes” and barred people “from using sustainable methods to grow, raise, produce, prepare, sell and buy a variety of foods.”

As you may have guessed, “sustainability” is the prime directive for Linnekin. It’s on my list words in danger of becoming meaningless for its overuse by the lazy, but Professor Linnekin is precise in his choice of words. For Linnekin, whether a rule or regulation is helping or hurting sustainability is a crucial metric for measuring its effectiveness.

Linnekin does not blow off food safety. He says some rules are “necessary and desirable,” but he does question “blind faith” in rule makers.

Though Food Safety News (a website Flynn notes I've previously contributed to) generally speaks out in favor of more stringent regulations than I support--Marler, who I quote in Biting the Hands that Feed Us, does the same--it's clear from Flynn's words that he respects the measured approach I take in the book. Flynn is careful to note that Food Safety News doesn't "do" book reviews. If they did, though, he's also clear he'd recommend reading Biting the Hands that Feed Us.

"I’d say it a fascinating read, but that would sound like a book review," Flynn concludes.

Quite a good non-book-review review of my book, I'd say! If you haven't picked up the "fascinating read" that's currently Amazon's #1 Best-Selling book in the Environmental & Natural Resources Law category, what are you waiting for?

Food Law Speaking, Writing, & Teaching Updates

I recently returned from Los Angeles, where I served as a guest faculty member at UCLA Law School, which played host to law students from around the country as part of the Food Law Student Leadership Summit. It's my third year of teaching at the (now) three-year old summit, which brings together smart and interested Food Law & Policy students from around the country for a series of seminars, lectures, and workshops on a variety of food-law topics.

My seminar at UCLA focused on the law as it applies to foraging (e.g., for mushrooms), which is the subject of one of two law review articles I'm currently writing. The foraging article will appear in an upcoming edition of the Fordham Urban Law Journal. The other article, which I wrote with my frequent collaborator Emily Broad Leib, is an update to our 2014 article on the field of Food Law & Policy. The earlier article appeared in the Wisconsin Law Review. Our current article will be published by the Journal of Food Law & Policy.

I've also been working on other writing assignments of late. One such article is out in print but not yet online. It's an essay for the American Bar Association's GP Solo magazine. The article focuses on federal GMO regulation. Here's an ABA summary of my article.

Did you ever wonder where your food comes from? GMOs Engender Passion (and That’s a Poor Basis for Lawmaking) by Baylen J. Linnekin explains what is a genetically modified organism and discusses current laws pertaining to GMO agriculture and foods (including a recent federal GMO-labeling law). Linnekin also explains the role of three U.S. agencies (the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency) in regulating GMO agriculture and food and highlights recent and ongoing controversies pertaining to GMOs. The author argues that people are free to tout what they believe are the wonders or horrors of GMO foods and discusses whether the government’s policy on GMOs should be a neutral one.

Did you ever wonder where your food comes from? GMOs Engender Passion (and That’s a Poor Basis for Lawmaking) by Baylen J. Linnekin explains what is a genetically modified organism and discusses current laws pertaining to GMO agriculture and foods (including a recent federal GMO-labeling law). Linnekin also explains the role of three U.S. agencies (the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency) in regulating GMO agriculture and food and highlights recent and ongoing controversies pertaining to GMOs. The author argues that people are free to tout what they believe are the wonders or horrors of GMO foods and discusses whether the government’s policy on GMOs should be a neutral one.

Stay tuned for a link to my ABA article once it's live online. If you're starved for Food Law & Policy readings, check out this piece from the recent Washington Lawyer magazine that quotes me and several colleagues.

Finally, here's an update on my upcoming speaking appearances. In January, I'll be giving a book talk at University of Washington Law School as part of the school's Social Justice Tuesdays. The talk is co-sponsored by the law school's Food Law & Policy Association and its Environmental Law Group. In March, I'll travel to Ann Arbor to give a book talk at University of Michigan Law School. That talk is co-sponsored by the school's Federalist Society chapter and its Food Law Society.

That's all for now. I expect that I'll have more updates next month.

Book Review, Anniversary, Speaking Appearances & More

My book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, just celebrated the one-year anniversary of its publication. I've been overwhelmed by the critical acclaim the book has received, and from the warm words about the book that many of you--friends, scholars, food-policy experts, farmers, food producers, and others--have shared with me since the book's publication.

Book critics have also had wonderful things to say about the book. For example, a very positive recent review published by Kirkus Reviews, which bills itself as providing "the most authoritative book reviews, recommendations and author interviews in publishing," calls Biting the Hands that Feed Us "a provocative critique of current food policy from a libertarian perspective." You can read praise from critics at Politico, Huffington Post, Booklist, Foreword, Reason, Men's Journal, Civil Eats, Acres U.S.A., the Midwest Book Review, and more here

Next month, I'll be giving a book talk at St. John's University Law School in New York City, and speaking as part of Fordham University Law School's annual Cooper-Walsh Colloquium. This year's colloquium is titled "Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple: A Conversation About Urban Food Policy." I'll also travel to rural Wisconsin for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund board meeting, the first in-person meeting since I joined the board last year. In November, I'll travel to UCLA Law School to serve as a guest faculty member at the 3rd Annual Student Food Law Summit. And this spring I'll be giving a book talk at University of Michigan Law School (date TBD).

As the summer turns to autumn, I hope your horizon appears as busy and bright as my own!

Find Me Writing, Speaking, and Gleaning

I'm pleased to provide an update here on some of my recent and ongoing work.

My latest piece for the New Food Economy was published today. In the lengthy article--which runs around 4,000 words--I describe details of a fascinating recall of potentially hazardous egg rolls last year, explain the role previously unreported FDA and USDA bickering played in the recall, and describe the complex and confusing overlap of agency regulatory authority. I'm very happy with the piece, which I think really pops thanks to documents I obtained through a FOIA request I filed with the USDA in November. I also continue to write weekly for Reason. Please check out my columns here.

On the speaking front, my fall calendar is also quite busy already. I'll be conducting a book talk and webinar for Northwestern University Alumni Association on Sept. 28. I'm a proud alum of Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy (MA '01). In October, I'll be in Wisconsin for the annual meeting of the board of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, where I'm a board member. I'll then travel to New York City, where I'll first give a book talk at St. John's University Law School (Oct. 19) and then discuss an article I'm writing about foraging as part of Fordham Urban Law Journal's annual Cooper-Walsh Colloquium (Oct. 20). The following week, I'll deliver a book in Seattle to a group of home economists, Euthenics of the Greater Seattle Area. And in November I'll again take part (for the third year in a row) as a guest faculty member at the annual Food Law Student Leadership Summit. This year's summit is hosted by UCLA Law School.

Finally, I'm thrilled to report on some volunteer work I've done in recent months with a terrific Seattle nonprofit, FareStart. I serve as a Food Recovery Ambassador and Food Recovery Committee member with FareStart as they work to expand their outreach to farmers and food hubs in service of reducing food waste, combating food insecurity, and training culinary professionals. Additionally, I take part in FareStart’s volunteer gleaning efforts. I've had the good fortune to reach out to farms and food hubs about recovering excess food, helped to plan FareStart's food-recovery efforts, and visited farms outside Seattle to pick excess produce. I've already helped glean nearly 200 lbs. of blueberries that FareStart has turned into food its budding culinary professionals serve to Seattleites in need.