My research seeks to understand the role of international law and governance in framing the conventions, norms, and institutions involving food from the early 1930s to roughly 1948, with a particular focus on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the largest specialized agency of the United Nations, headquartered in Rome, Italy.
The research addresses in chronological order a number of important benchmarks for the FAO and its intersection with other international bodies and frameworks, including the International Institute of Agriculture (Rome), League of Nations, The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), World Health Organization (WHO), and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The analysis based on this research addresses the interplay between FAO and the development of international law; global food norms; international institutions; sovereign states and international stakeholders; and the start of international food law and policy frameworks, namely trade, nutrition, and food security. I am especially interested in whether FAO’s mandate and governance authorities position the agency to help meet the changing needs of an evolving global food system as hunger, dietary diseases, climate change, environmental degradation, and equity concerns confront all nations.
I am the founding Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law and Professor from Practice. I have had the good fortune in helping lead the development of food law as a discipline in law schools in the United States, Europe, and Asia from the time that I taught the first food law and policy course in the United States in 2004. This development has been precipitated by a modern food movement that has set out to foster new norms for civil society and inspire consumer interest in food. I taught an international food law course at Cambridge University during a summer law program in 2006 and have since then vacillated between private practice, where I engaged in international food law, and academia where I have incorporated international law topics in books and articles. During this intellectual journey, I developed a passion for the international and domestic history of food law and covered aspects of this history in the treatise I authored on Food Law in the United States (Cambridge 2016) and in the casebook I co-edited on Food Law Cases and Materials (Wolters Kluwer 2019). It was during the writing of these books that I determined to research and write on the history of international food law and FAO, where I was a visiting scholar and consultant during 2008-09. I am now currently editing Research Handbook on International Food Law (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming 2021) and following this publication will author, Elgar Companion to the Law and Practice of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming 2022).
At UCLA, I teach courses on food law and direct scholarship and research, as well as collaboration and convenings, on food law and policy. I also have helped lead the organization of a food studies certificate program at UCLA. My full bio and bibliography can be found at https://law.ucla.edu/faculty/faculty-profiles/michael-t-roberts