The limits of governmental regulation in food information law

This project analyses the multi-level governance of food information to consumers via the internet. It focuses on requirements on information at the nexus between sustainability and innovation. It takes a comparative approach benchmarking the EU against the USA and Australia/New Zealand.

Application of technological innovations in agriculture and food production is both advocated and contested from the perspective of sustainability. Governments increasingly emphasize consumers’ responsibility in this issue by means of the choices they make. Informing consumers gives them the power to choose in the market.

However, in the current information age governments struggle to ensure fair information provision to balance (often) competing interests: such as sustainability and consumer protection on the one hand and innovation and free trade on the other. This struggle has led to different ways of regulating information provision in different geographic regions. Globalized trade in food and border-crossing communication via the internet make such regional differences in regulation problematic.

This project identifies, compares and analyses legal requirements on consumer-targeted communications relating to the presence or absence of innovative technologies in foods. It focuses on the influence of on-going debates both on the rejection or acceptance of technologies and on specific ways of regulating information provision, based on their consequences for transparency, credibility and accessibility of information relevant to quality of life.

Particular attention is placed on the limits of governmental power to regulate commercial and other speech by law of a higher rank like human rights and WTO Agreements. To aid future legislation on informational quality in governance processes this research will identify best practices of governance dealing with the challenges of the Information Age.