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The global food system is exceeding ecological limits while failing to meet the nutritional needs of a large segment of the world’s population. While law could play an important role in facilitating the transition to a more just and ecologically sustainable food system, the current legal framework fails to regulate food and agriculture in an integrated manner. The international legal framework governing food and agriculture is fragmented into three self-contained regimes that have historically operated in isolation from one another: international human rights law, international environmental law, and international trade law. International trade law has taken precedence over human rights and international environmental law to the detriment of small farmers and the environment. The article analyzes the international legal regime applicable to food and agriculture, explains the ways in which the current regime perpetuates food insecurity and unsustainable cultivation practices, and argues that agriculture should be removed from the purview of the World Trade Organization. The article concludes by sketching out some of the elements of an alternative approach to global governance based on the concept of food sovereignty.


Originally published in Natural Resources, volume 26, 2013 by the American Bar Association. Reprinted in 29 GPSolo 72, 2012.