The Rise of U.S. Food Sustainability Litigation

74 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2011

See all articles by Steph Tai

Steph Tai

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: October 3, 2011


This article provides one of the first critical looks at the interface between the values of the sustainable food movement and its rising use of litigation. In particular, it focuses on two growing areas of food sustainability litigation "challenges to CAFOs and challenges to the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food system" chosen because they involve growing sectors of U.S. agriculture over which members of the sustainable food movement have raised significant concerns.

The article begins by describing the sustainable food movement, including how the movement fits in with factors that sociologists use to characterize social movements, as well as the values seemingly held by the sustainable food movement. The article next provides a brief introduction into CAFOs and GMOs. In doing so, the article explores the types of concerns expressed by the sustainable food movement regarding these issues by examining some popular literature coming out of the sustainable food movement. The article then analyzes CAFO and GMO litigation in the United States arising from the sustainable food movement. In examining this litigation, the article observes how these challenges relate to some of the purported goals of the various sustainable food movements, yet may not fully succeed in advancing some of the broader visions of the movements. The article then explains that the inadequacy of these legal efforts result from particular ways in which existing legal avenues fail to mesh with the values of the food sustainability movements. This article concludes by drawing from studies of other historical movements and argues that the food sustainability movement, if it is to succeed in transforming the U.S. food system, must seek reform not only through substantive changes to agricultural and food policy, but also through the creation of additional legal avenues for its values to be meaningfully expressed.

Keywords: Food sustainability litigation, social movement, litigation strategy, environment, agriculture

JEL Classification: L31, Q0, Q01, Q18, Q19, Q2, Q28, Q29, Q5, Q58, Q59

Suggested Citation

Tai, Steph, The Rise of U.S. Food Sustainability Litigation (October 3, 2011). Southern California Law Review, Forthcoming, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1175, Available at SSRN:

Steph Tai (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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