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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 19, 2010

Experts to discuss legal aspects of food at Feb. 26 symposium

Experts on legal aspects of food will visit the University of Iowa Friday, Feb. 26 to discuss recipe copyrights, food safety and marketing, community-based agriculture, and a century-long ban on yellow margarine in Quebec.

"From Field to Tablet: A Symposium on Food, Culture, and the Law," is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. The free, public talks are sponsored by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and the Center for Ethnic Studies and the Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Additional funding was provided by the UI College of Law.

At 10 a.m., Christopher Buccafusco, who teaches law at Chicago-Kent, will explain how chefs' creations are not afforded formal intellectual property protection, even though the original dishes are essential to their economic success. He argues that granting chefs copyright protection would have negative consequences for chefs and the dining public, and says despite their lack of formal property rights, chefs are more creative than ever.

At 11 a.m., Penelope Pether, who teaches law at Villanova University, will discuss Southern and African-American chef and food writer Edna Lewis, co-founder of the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food.

At 1:30 p.m., Fabio Parasecoli of New York University and Gustolab, a center for food and culture in Rome, will address geographical indications, which are used to associate food products with specific regions. He'll discuss whether geographical indications encourage community-based, sustainable, quality-oriented agriculture, or whether they are essentially for marketing purposes.

At 2:30 p.m., Charlene Elliott, who teaches communication studies at the University of Calgary, will explain a longstanding law prohibiting the sale of yellow margarine in Quebec. She'll provide a history of the buttery imposter's experience in Canada, illustrating how the scandal of "miscommunication" can be used to serve particular ends.

The symposium will conclude with a 4 p.m. talk (reception following) by Denis Stearns, a founding partner of Marler Clark law firm in Seattle, Wash., the nation's preeminent firm representing people injured by unsafe food. He'll explain how laws initially favored food manufacturers and sellers, but cases involving unsafe and defective food led to more consumer-friendly product liability laws. Stearns says high-profile outbreaks in the past decade have renewed consumers' interest in face-to-face food exchanges, such as the local food movement.

For more information on the symposium, visit , or contact 319-384-3490 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,