October 21st, 8:45 am – 5:30 p.m.

Ropes Gray Room, Pound Hall, Harvard Law School
Open to Harvard Law School Students


Among the nine other speakers are Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, who will discuss how modern dietary patterns lead to disease; Doug Rauch, former President of Trader Joe’s, who will discuss his innovative idea to bring inexpensive fruits and vegetables to food deserts; and Susan Prolman, Executive Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, who will discuss the 2012 Farm Bill.Food and drink provided by Clover, Island Creek Oysters, Equal Exchange and Grilled Cheese Nation will be available for attendees during the October 21st event.

Session 1: Health

Walter Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health/Harvard Medical School

David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Optimal Weight for Life Clinic, Children’s Hospital Boston and Professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, University of Washington and blogger at Whole Health Source

Session 2: Supply

Susan Prolman, J.D.
Executive Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Emily Broad Leib, J.D.
Senior Delta Clinical Fellow, Harvard Law School

John Piotti
Executive Director, Maine Farmland Trust

Session 3: Demand

Doug Rauch, M.B.A.
Former President, Trader Joe’s Company

Jennifer Pomeranz, J.D., M.P.H.
Director of Legal Initiatives, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University

Freya Williams and Graceann Bennett


Cosponsored by Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Emmet Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Let’s Talk about Food, Harvard Health Law and Policy Clinic, HLS Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention Program

Child and Youth Advocates, Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, Harvard Association for Law and Business, Harvard Environmental Law Review, Harvard Environmental Law Society, Harvard Law and Health Care Society, Harvard Journal on Legislation, Harvard Urban Law Association, Harvard Law and International Development Society, HLS Republicans, Harvard Women’s Law Association, Harvard Mississippi Delta Project, Harvard Law School Green Living Program, and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics.

And many thanks for our conference banners to:


Robert Lustig opened the Food Law Society’s Harvard Forum on Food Policy on October 20th with his lecture, “The Sugar Epidemic: Policy vs. Politics.” Recently featured in The New York Times Magazine, Dr. Lustig has become a leading pubic health authority on the impact sugar has on fueling the diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome epidemics, and on addressing changes in the food environment to reverse these chronic diseases.

“Excessive sugar consumption in the U.S. and abroad are deleterious to public health. The carbohydrate fructose impacts health negatively beyond its caloric equivalent, and produces a ‘vicious cycle’ of consumption and metabolic disease in large quantities, akin to that seen with ethanol. It is time for a paradigm shift in obesity science and policy, away from personal responsibility and toward public health. The place to start is with sugar, which like alcohol, should not be treated as an ordinary commodity on the open market.”Efforts to reduce fructose consumption should be informed by the extensive body of evidence from international experience and research on alcohol policy. This evidence points to inadequacy of public information and education programs, but rather supports taxation and other controls on marketing and distribution, including access and zoning restrictions. At the national level, removal of fructose from the Food and Drug Administration’s GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list, are among the most promising policy interventions to address the rising rates of chronic metabolic disease.”

To select an individual talk, please use the playlist features.

Freya Williams & Graceann Bennett – Cracking the Code on Norming Better Behaviors

How do you get people to do things that are actually good for them? That’s the question marketing strategists Graceann Bennett and Freya Williams set out to answer in their recent research study, Mainstream Green: Moving Sustainability from Niche to Normal. Their research focused on mainstream behaviors around sustainability, but what they learned has application to many behavior change fields, including healthy eating and food policy. The answer? The power of social norms and our fundamental human need to belong override logic, reason and morals most of the time. In this talk, Graceann and Freya explain why succeeding in motivating the mainstream to do what’s good for them will require a radically new approach.

Emily Broad Leib – Law and the Future of the Food Movement

Well-crafted food policy should fulfill a range of goals, including increasing access to healthy foods, improving economic development for small producers, reducing obesity and diet-related disease, and increasing food security. Despite its crucial role, no government agency is devoted solely to food policy. Dozens of agencies at all levels of government sculpt the laws that impact our food system, leading to uncoordinated policy that hinders emerging food initiatives like farmers markets, community-supported agriculture, or urban farming. New federal policies are clearly needed, but state and local food-related laws also have great potential to improve the food system and are ripe for change. Lawyers must play a central role in the food movement, in both breaking down legal barriers to consumer food access and producer market entry and helping to craft new and innovative policies critical for improvement in our food system. The need for legal assistance in the food movement is real; lawyers and law schools need to start filling it.

DavidLudwig – Diet Technology and Chronic Disease

The causes of obesity are multifactorial, but one development has contributed inordinately: the replacement of whole foods by ultra-processed products. Promoted under the auspices of convenience, ultra-processed products have driven profits for commodity manufacturers and the fast food/snack food industry. However, over the long-term, chronic diseases associated with an excessively processed diet will have enormous cost in terms of human suffering and economic losses. Ultimately, the obesity epidemic can be viewed as a disease of technology with a simple, but politically difficult solution.

John Piotti – Can New England Feed Itself?

New England has seen a resurgence in local farming in the last decade, but will this trend continue? Can local farming grow to a level where our region supplies a substantial amount of our food needs? And even if it could, should it? In this session, John Piotti – who has been at the forefront of farming issues in Maine for over 15 years – will examine what is possible and what makes sense. He will outline what it would require of our eating habits and mean for our landscape and our economy if New England took major strides in this direction.

Jennifer Pomeranz – But We Have to Eat!

Overwhelming aspects of the United States’ current food environment encourage poor nutrition and present the country with an unprecedented public health challenge. Legal solutions are required to correct the current market system that has resulted in overweight or obesity in 48% of children and 68% of adults. Ms. Pomeranz discusses the current food environment, responds to the specific challenges in addressing this public health crisis, and presents ideas for reform designed to support government intervention, alter consumer demand, and stimulate social norm change around food.

Susan Prolman – Federal Food and Agriculture Policy

The farm bill authorizes the expenditure of hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars. It shapes our nation’s food and agriculture policy. Susan Prolman explores the following questions: How does the current farm bill spend this public money? Does the farm bill provide the right incentives? What is likely to happen in the 2012 farm bill reauthorization? How could farm bill funds be better spend for farmers, communities, the public health, and consumers?

WalterWillett – How Do Modern Dietary Patterns Lead to Disease What Should We Eat?

For the last 20 years the focus of nutritional advice has been to reduce total fat intake and consume large amounts of carbohydrate. However, this advice is inconsistent with many lines of evidence indicating that unsaturated fats have beneficial metabolic effects and reduce risk of coronary heart disease. More recent evidence has also shown that the large majority of carbohydrates in current industrial diets, consisting of refined starches and sugars, have adverse metabolic effects and increased risks of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Thus, in what appears to be an optimal diet, most calories would come from a balance of whole grains and plant oils, proteins would be provided by a mix of beans, nuts, fish, eggs, and poultry, and the remaining nutritional needs would be filled by plenty of vegetables and a few fruits. Important considerations include the role of dairy products, the interrelationships with physical activity and genetic variations, and the implications of our food choices on environmental sustainability, and how we move from today’s pathological diet to a more optimal way of eating.