Dissertation Final Defense - Michaela Oldfield - Aug 4

Date: July 21, 2015
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Natural Resources RM 338

Public and Private Regulation - The Food Safety Modernization Act

and the Governance of Food Safety in the United States

Dissertation Final Defense


Michaela Oldfield

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

338 Natural Resources Building


Using the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) as a case study, the dissertation examines evolving patterns of governance in the contemporary agrifood system. Scholars today note that governing is carried out through patterns of governance, in which rules are set, applied and enforced by all manner of social-political actors nested in overlapping networks at multiple scales and across diverse geographies. The research explores who is participating in these networks, how the actors and networks are interacting, and the consequences these overlapping networks have for different sectors of society to meaningfully affect the choices about their lives.

The research shows how interactions among industry, public and private regulators, consumer groups and alternative agrifood activists in private and public-private regulatory networks shaped the policy choices in the FSMA and re-contoured the roles and relationships among public and private regulatory actors. The dynamics of proliferating policy networks are complicating the regulatory tasks of public regulators and undermining the capacity of some stakeholders to meaningfully participate in all of the relevant governance activities. In the enactment and rulemaking, alternative agrifood systems advocates sought to contest current agrifood governance patterns. They had some meaningful success establishing themselves as a distinct and legitimate interest group with potential political power. But ultimately governance continues to be dominated by corporate interests and neoliberal thinking. The conclusion is that emerging governance patterns are undermining traditional democratic normative values. Attempting to dramatically restructure the system seems untenable, while staying the course and perhaps re-conceptualizing normative values of governance is dissatisfying.

Committee members:

  • Michael Hamm, Chairperson
  • Lawrence Busch
  • Craig Harris
  • Patricia Norris