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Food Law and Policy (LAWS10005)

Undergraduate level 1Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 1
Subject codeLAWS10005
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Can law help our food systems deliver safe, healthy, sustainable, fair, affordable food? This subject examines how law impacts on food systems and whether it can help resolve tricky issues concerning land and agriculture, production and processing and marketing and consumption.

Students will learn about the range of different laws and regulations in Australia and around the world that impact on food systems through analysis of how law and regulation addresses conflicts and problems that arise in the food system.

The subject will use a case study approach. Each week we will use a different case study of a food system issue to examine how the law applies to that problem and evaluate how well the law addresses multiple competing values and perspectives in relation to food and law. Some examples of questions we might address are included below.

  • How are conflicts over the use of land between indigenous land rights, cattle grazing and environmental advocates of biodiversity, habitat protection and preserving the forests be resolved?
  • How can we make sure chemical fertilisers and pesticides are not poisoning farmers, consumers, the land and the water? How much is too much?
  • Can law help us work out when it is safe to use new food technologies such as genetically modified organisms?
  • Should the law stop houses being built on farm land?
  • What standards should there be to make sure farm animals are happy or not treated cruelly?
  • Can junk food manufacturers be forced to make their food healthier?
  • What should be on the food label – traffic lights, GMO, fair trade, animal welfare, food miles?
  • Are the supermarkets too powerful? Should the power of big food corporations be better controlled? How far does my food travel and can we find ways to reduce it?
  • Are hospitality workers treated fairly?
  • Is there a right to (cheap/healthy/sustainable/safe) food?
  • Can the law do anything about food waste and overconsumption?

The subject takes a holistic approach to the food system and the connections between the various stages of the food system and between issues e.g. between local and global, between the individual and the food system and between individual consumption decisions and the ‘big picture’ of public health, ecological sustainability and fairness.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will learn to:

  • Identify the different stakeholders impacted by conflicts and problems in relation to safe, healthy, sustainable, fair, and affordable food systems;
  • Recognise different laws and regulations in Australia and around the world that can be used to address and resolve conflicts and problems in food systems;
  • Investigate different legal options for resolving conflicts and problems in food systems;
  • Evaluate how well different laws address the needs and concerns of different food system stakeholders and help the food system operate more sustainably, healthily, affordably;
  • Make a persuasive argument about how law should work to resolve competing stakeholder interests and address the objectives of safe, healthy, sustainable, fair, affordable food; and
  • Identify gaps and opportunities for reform in the way in which the law impacts on the food system and addresses stakeholder concerns.

Generic skills

A student who has successfully completed the subject should have:

  • Developed strategies for responding to legal issues or considerations in matters involving food;
  • Developed oral skills through contributing to tutorial discussion groups
  • Developed analytical style writing skills through preparation for tutorials and the assignment; and
  • Developed an attitude to learning which views pre-reading, reflection and class discussion as essential to learning.

Last updated: 11 October 2019