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The Law of the Land: A Legal Analysis of the Corporate Food Regime and the Institutionalization of Food Sovereignty in the U.S.

Authors: Hannah Kass*, University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Food Systems, Legal Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: food sovereignty, critical legal geography, neoliberalism, food regimes
Session Type: Paper
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La Vía Campesina, a transnational movement advocating for smallholder farmers’ rights, coined the term “food sovereignty,” defined in large part as the right of food producers and consumers to have control over food and agriculture policy, rather than corporate agribusinesses. In the U.S., both food sovereignty and agri-food movements mostly operate in the context of the neoliberal economics that led to the food sovereignty movement in the first place, and food sovereignty is often thought to be an international issue to be resolved on the local level. Yet, analysis of U.S. federal laws and their impact on farmers during the corporate food regime begs to differ. The literature is beginning to uncover a deep necessity for institutionalizing food sovereignty by converting its demands into policy and law, especially at the federal level. This paper analyzes case law, statutes, and statutory interpretation pertaining to corporate law in campaign finance, the Farm Bill, and anti-trust laws to understand the U.S. government and legal system’s role in institutionalizing the corporate food regime. In doing so, the paper asks: how has the U.S. institutionalized the corporate food regime, and what does that tell us about how to institutionalize food sovereignty in the U.S. and beyond? How has the corporate food regime been legally bound to the physical and human landscape? How should we interpret these political, spatial and legal relationships if we hope to create space for food sovereignty?

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