Law for the Living Environment

Law is a powerful tool for social change. The LAW group studies the influence of law on the rules and institutions needed to face the environmental, social and economic challenges of today and to facilitate transitions to a sustainable living environment.

Through its unique institutional position at WUR, the LAW group can act as a bridge between traditional legal scholarship and researchers working towards practical life science solutions to global challenges. Any successful scientific solution to these challenges needs to be accommodated within our legal systems, and be in line with the normative principles that these systems represent.

The Group’s chair plan for the period 2021-2025 is called Law for the Living Environment. As part of the chair plan, the group’s research, teaching and social impact focuses on three thematic research lines: environment, food, and business. These research lines interact in important ways and our researchers collaborate across these lines, as is reflected in our three connecting themes (‘connectors’): systemic change; transnational law and transdisciplinary methodology.nique institutional position, the LAW group can act as a bridge between traditional legal scholarship and researchers working towards practical life science solutions to global challenges. Any successful scientific solution to these challenges needs to be accommodated within our legal systems, and be in line with the normative principles that these systems represent.

Research line: environment

One of the most important regulatory challenges of our time is how to manage the wide range of the public and private actors and actions that shape our social and natural environments. Doing so successfully requires an in-depth understanding of multiple connected, but at times contradictory, legal frameworks which have to balance a number of public and private interests of current, and future, generations across the globe.

Key research areas under this research line include:
- Climate change
- Energy law
- Pollution, pesticides and plastics
- Comparative environmental law
- Biodiversity*
- Environmental and climate justice (also part of ‘Business’)
- Agricultural law (also part of ‘Food’)
- Human health (also part of ‘Food’)
- Animal law (also part of ‘Food’)

Research line lead: Prof. dr. Josephine van Zeben
Associated researchers: Dr. Lucila De Almeida, Dr. Bart Kamphorst,
Taufik Haryanto, Kathleen Garnett, Violet Ross, Alexandra Schneiders, Margaret Grossman

* Research areas in which the Group is expanding.

Research line: Food

Our food system has to accommodate a wide range of policy goals: to be sustainable and just; to ensure food and nutrition security; to deliver safe and healthy food; to safeguard the wellbeing of non-human animals that are part of our diet and/or affected by our agricultural system more broadly; to become increasingly circular; to incorporate technological and digital innovation; to remain, and/or become, economically viable; and to respect the limits of our living environment. Law plays a crucial role in achieving these goals and in managing the trade-offs and synergies between them.

Key research areas under this research line include:
- (EU) Food law
- Comparative food law
- E-Food
- Food Justice/ Food System Solidarity
- Intellectual property rights
- Public procurement law (also part of ‘Business’)
- Trade law (also part of ‘Business’)
- Agricultural law (also part of ‘Environment’)
- Consumer law (also part of ‘Business’)
- Human health (also part of ‘Environment’)
- Animal law (also part of ‘Environment’)

Research lead: Dr. Hanna Schebesta
Associated researchers: Eva Johan, Dr. Marie Jose (Pepa) Plana Casado, Dr. Mirta Alessandrini, Francesco Cazzini, Dr. Bram de Jonge, Ir. ing. Niels van der Linden, Marianna Vanuzzo (marianna.vanuzzo@unicatt.it)



    Research line: Business

    Corporations have significant power and influence over our living environment. They can both contribute to and prevent the realization of human rights, the Sustainable Development Goals, and a circular and climate-neutral economy. National, EU and international legal frameworks seek to maintain economic growth while regulating corporate activities in the face of global political contestation and technological innovations.

    Key research areas under this research line include:
    - Business and human rights
    - Labour law (safety and health of workers)
    - Competition law
    - Public procurement law (also part of ‘Food’)
    - Trade and investment law (also part of ‘Food’)
    - Environmental and climate justice (also part of ‘Environment’)
    - Privacy and data rights
    - Consumer law (also part of ‘Food’)

    Research line lead: Dr. Nadia Bernaz
    Associated researchers: Dr. Chiara Macchi, Dr. Radha Jethu, Aniekan Ukpe

    As is immediately clear from the above, these themes interrelate in important ways. Many of the legal areas in which we have expertise can be approached from different perspectives: for example, agricultural law can be studied with an environmental perspective, focussing primarily on the environmental impacts of different forms of agriculture, and from an agri-food perspective, focussing on aspects such as food quality and safety. The fact that these areas of expertise are present within one Group greatly strengthens our ability to provide holistic solutions.

    In addition to these substantive overlaps and interactions, there are also important overarching developments that affect each of these areas. These are captured by our ‘connectors’. The connectors reflect concerns for the future societal role of the law (‘Where do we believe future challenges will emerge and how can we best future-proof the law to deal with these?’) as well as ongoing changes to legal scholarship itself and its methodologies.

    Connector 1: Systemic change

    The vision of the LAW Group and its research/education agenda builds on the assumption that ‘business as usual’ is no longer desirable nor sustainable in light of the pressures this has placed on our societal and environmental processes. Systemic change is needed but how to achieve such transformative change is not self-evident. Regardless of which method is chosen, law plays an important role in regulating systemic change. This includes regulating the risks that accompany systemic change, such as those linked to the (disruptive) innovations and technologies that many expect necessary.

    Key research areas under this connector include:
    - Circular economy (transitions towards, and implementation)
    - Risk regulation
    - Anticipatory and responsive law-making
    - Big data and data sharing
    - Technological and digital innovation

      Connector 2: Transnational law

      Law, and legal scholarship, are traditionally highly nationalized with national law and national legal systems being the starting point for most legal analysis. Developments in EU and international law have challenged the monopoly of the nation-state, particularly due to the important role that private actors increasingly play in (transboundary) regulation. With respect to the themes of the LAW Group, ‘transnational law’ is particularly prominent. Transnational law refers to law and legal regimes that span more than one jurisdiction and involves both public and private actors as law-makers and enforcers.

      Key research areas under this connector include:
      - Private standards as complements and replacements of public law
      - Measures of legitimacy and effectiveness in transnational law
      - The role of (international) courts in shaping transnational law

      Connector 3: Transdisciplinary methodology

      Legal research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary as a result of the changing demands that are being put upon the legal system. Law and economics, law and political theory, law and behavioural sciences, law and management, are all examples of approaches and methodologies applied within the LAW Group. WUR provides the perfect setting for further transdisciplinary work that extends these collaborations to the life sciences and includes the creation of a shared methodological language and intellectual frameworks, beyond the interdisciplinary practices of integrating methodologies and knowledge from different disciplines into law.

      Key research areas under this connector include:
      - Transdisciplinary work within and beyond the social sciences
      - Innovative legal methodologies, such as content analysis supported by software, behavioral approaches