Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Available all semesters

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment One essay of 5,000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Display an understanding of the ecology of food production and consumption and an appreciate of the relevance of ecology to development and character of EU policy and law in this field.

Display a knowledge and understanding of the underlying rationale and methodology of this broad field of EU policy and law and the tensions that exist therein.

Critically evaluate and test arguments relating to the need for, and value of, an over-arching system of supra-national governance in this field.

Critically engage and evaluate arguments relating to the role of law in mediating complex and potentially conflicting stakeholder interests - particularly in the context of highly controversial and politically and economically sensitive technologies such as agri-food biotechnology.

Locate and evaluate the relevant literature and materials in this field and use them in critical discussion of the aspects of food ecology and law studied in the module.

Present critical and well informed argument relating to the development and influence of European food policy and law with reference to the UK context.


1. The Ecology of Production: Agri-Culture Past, Present and Future

An opportunity to consider the evolution of modern agricultural/food production systems and the parallel evolution of modern Western Society and culture.

Agriculture and food at the heart of human ecology - connecting food production with human nature and our place in the biosphere.
The biology and ecology of contemporary agriculture and meat production - an examination of the utility and impacts of intensive farming systems.
Shifting trends in production: Organic and sustainable food production systems - exploring/explaining the concept of sustainable and organic food production.

2. Consuming Cultures: The Ecology of Food Consumption Past, Present and Future

Exploring the ecology of food consumption.

Supply and demand? Food access in the EU and in the UK - an overview of traditional and contemporary supply and consumption patterns using the UK as the primary focal point.
Food cultures and consumption in the UK - an opportunity to consider more directly, the cultural contexts influencing food consumption in the UK.
Responsible consumption and 'bringing the food economy home' - an opportunity to consider the extent of consumer autonomy in the marketplace and the landscape of 'ethical' consumption.

3. From Farm to Table: EU Food Law

Promoting an understanding and appreciation of the history, mechanics and tone of EU food policy and law.

An overview of the evolution of COmmunity food law - a general historical overview of EC/EU governance of the food sector from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Salmonella, dioxins and BSE: Food law in crisis - here, the various major food crises of the 1990s are reviewed, and their impat on the regulatory landscape is considered.
From 'farm to plate': COmmunity food law for the 21st Century - an overview of how Community food law has been reformed following the food crises of the 1990s.

4. Regulating New Technologies in Food Production and Consumption

A case study illustrating the free-market oriented and negotiated character of Community food law. This section looks at the emergence of agri-food related applications of new tecnologies - primarily biotechnologies, but also nantechnologies - through the lens of EU food policy and law. The objective here is to provide students with an insight into specific (and controversial) areas of food law with a view to highlighting the way in which consumer, environmental and industry interests are mediated within the EU system of governance.

Genetic engineering: the early years (mid 1980s - 1996) - a historical overview of the early years of the agri-food market, focusing primarily on the US.
Agri-food biotechnology: The European Perspective (1980s - 1996) - tracking the emergence of strong public opposition to GE crops and food products through the latter half of the 1990s.
Regulating genetically modified organisms in the laboratory and in the field - an overview of the evolution of the EU regulatory framework.
Regulating 'Novelty;: EU/EC Regulatory Responses to novel food risks - explaining and evaluating Novel Foods framework and the EU's de-facto moratorium on new approvals of GMOs imposed in 1998.
Conflict on the international stage: the WTO Complaint and negotiated compromise through law - a review of the US, Canada and Argentina complaint to the WTO concerning the EU's obstructive stance on trade in biotech products followed by an overview of the revamped regulatory framework that now governs the entry of GM food and feed products onto the EU market.
From gene-technologies to nan-scale technologies: regulating food futures - an overview of the policy and regulatory challenges presented by second and third generation GE products and also, emergent agri-food nanotechnologies.

5. The Ecology and Regulation of the Food Chain: Current Trends and Challenges

Pulling the various aspects of production and consumption together and looking forwards to consider how the ecology and regulation of agri and food cultures in the UK and the EU are likely to evolve over the coming years.

Ecology of food past and present - a summary. A review of the ecology of food production and consumption drawing on the knowledge gained in the earlier units.
The regulation of food production and consumption - a summary. A review of the evolution and current state of EU food law drawing conclusiogn about the efficaccy of EU governance from the perspectives of key stakeholders, and in particular, from the consumer perspective.
'Food Futures' - a summary. This final part of the course summarises 21st Century food challenges, encouraging students to draw some final conclusions regarding future trends in production, consumption and regulation.

Brief description

The broad objective of this module is to encourage students to develop a critical appreciation of the economic, political, environmental and cultural aspects of agriculture, food processing, trade and consumption. The first part of the module encourages students to consider the ecology of food production and consumption. Key issues such as the industrialization of agricultural, food processing and supply systems, as well as public health and the cultural aspects of food consumption will be explored here

The second half of this module aims ot provide students with a general grounding in EU food policy and law, encouraging them to develop a sound appreciation of the reality and rhetoric of this free-trade oriented system of governaance. Here a general overview of Community food law is provided, and then, building upon this essential grounding, the course then moves on to explore the application of so called 'new technologies' to food production and processing, and the evolution of Community law governing genetically modified (GM) and 'novel' food (such as those produced using nanotechnologies). These 'case studies' provide an ideal vehicle for an 'in depth' consideration of some of the key challenges facing EU regulatory authorities seeking to negotiate a politically and economically tenable path through the minefield of the global food market. In particular, this part of the module serves to highlight the tensions that can arise between consumer and industry interest, differing perspectives on risk and environmental and foo 'safety', as well as the potential for contemporary food production to give rise to politically and economically costly trade disputes between the EU and key producer states such as the US. In aprticular, this part of the course focuses on the protective value of the law from the consumer perspective, and considers the way in which law seeks to mediate the sometimes conflicting interests of key stakeholders.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication skills are developed through the presentation of information and argument in written answers and in a more informal way through the use of Blackboard to encourage communication between students and academic staff. Oral communication skills are developed at the residential study schools.
Improving own Learning and Performance Distance learning, by its very nature, requires strong individual learning and performance structures and this module further develops key skills in this area.
Information Technology The module is delivered almost entirely by distance learning which relies heavily on the use of electronic information and on-line learning and teaching.
Personal Development and Career planning Independent learning enhances time management skills. Studying the module will also encourage and promote critical thought and the ability to work independently.
Problem solving By examination and sicussion of ecological, policy and regulatory aspects of food production and consumption with reference to various contemporary agricultural and food related issues and the agri-food biotechnology/nanotechnology case study.
Research skills By analysis of relevant European and international policy documents, and legislative instruments, in conjunction with the study of key sources addressing the more ecological and cultural aspects of the food supply chain.
Subject Specific Skills None
Team work Team working skills will be encouraged and developed via group activities and discussions during the residential study schools.


This module is at CQFW Level 7