Dr Sharl Marimuthu from UNE school of law was the keynote speaker and hosted the zoominar. She explained that ‘future food’ is food which claims to be nutritious and is produced sustainably. Examples of this kind of food are: crickets which have around three times more protein than beef and produce up to one thousand times less gas emissions; kernza, a grain with deep growing roots which reduce soil erosion, increase drought resistance and allow the plants to store nutrients; and, plant burgers which are pea and soy-based burgers created by food scientists, containing no gluten, less sodium and less saturated fats – they also ‘bleed’ when you bite them!

There needs to be clear legislation and norms guiding the growth of this industry. Issues which need to be explored include; whether the law is acting as a hinderance or support to this new or potentially new food industry; whether the absence of clear rules is a major factor hindering  the development of this industry; and, whether potential investors, farmers and entrepreneurs have difficulties identifying the appropriate regulations and law.

The first presenter was Dr Anu Lähteenmäki-Uutela is a senior researcher at  the Environmental Centre Finnish Environment Institute – ’Homo Sapiens Regulating Food Assortments’.

Dr Lähteenmäki-Uutela discussed changes in human behaviour from an evolutionary psychology perspective. She proposed that there may be parts in our brains which hinder decision making regarding the future of the global food chain. Emotions affect what we choose to eat – we are usually disgusted by food that we are not taught to eat as children. Exposure to new foods by seeing others eating it, and preparing it in a manner where it tastes like food we are already familiar with, could assist people overcoming any disgust.

Laws can help with the transition required for more sustainable food systems and a healthier diet. Humans in general want to be seen to be doing the right thing. Also, the triggering of moral emotions can make humans feel guilty about not taking personal action. Overall people need to be encouraged to make change and not see the problem as being too large to take personal action.

Professor Marcia Leuzinger, a Professor in Environmental and Administrative law at Brasilia University Centre and an Attorney in the state of Parana, presented the second topic – ‘Impact of farming on Biodiversity loss in Brazil’.

Professor Leuzinger explained that deforestation in Brazil is on the increase again. The different biomes in Brazil are being destroyed due to traditional monoculture farming of mainly soybeans and cattle. If the deforestation rate continues, it will have a great impact on the world climate. Brazil must change the way it views sustainable development and stop thinking that economic growth is the most important thing.

Brazil does have modern and restrictive legislation but enforcement is weak. The current government is ignoring environmental protection under the guise of needing to improve the economy. The desire for GDP growth dominates. The agricultural and livestock sectors employ one third of Brazilian workers and in 2020 43% of Brazil’s exports came from agribusiness products. Agribusiness now makes up 21% of the GDP and even though GDP decreased in 2020 agribusiness continues to increase. Brazil must stop its monoculture farming and deforestation to prevent global food insecurity, help with climate change and preserve biodiversity.

Puan Murshamshul teaches equity and trust law and intellectual property in the faculty of Law and International Relation at UniSZA, Malaysia. She was the third presenter – ‘Impact of COVID 19 on Food Security Policy in Malaysia’.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted Malaysia’s inability to fully feed itself. It hastened the need to think about food security and agrifood policy in broader terms.

Even though during the Covid 19 lockdowns transport of agricultural products was excluded, the reality was that the supply of food from farm to table was disrupted. Lock downs, health screenings, quarantine and sick workers reduced the labour force. Fresh markets were closed  and 64% of farmers were unable to sell their products during the country’s first lockdown. There was a break in food production because items such as seeds and fertilisers were unable to reach their destination.

Because of the closure of food services, there was a huge reduction in demand. Retailers were met with additional time and costs due to health restrictions, and food waste increased. Consumers engaged in panic buying and food hoarding. Income loss meant that the inability to purchase food increased. Food affordability is now a problem for Malaysians with increases in prices coming after each lockdown period.

In May 2020 the Government set up the National Food Security Council which looked at short-, medium- and long-term food security issues. During the pandemic controlled fresh market outlets were established which connected farmers to local markets. The Ministry of Agriculture used e-commerce platforms to enhance marketability and viability of agricultural products for the domestic market. Funding was given to storage and distribution facilities to supplement and maintain existing facilities for food storage and to avoid dumping food due to the decrease in demand.

The final presenter was Associate Professor, Dr Sheela Jayabalan, from the Faculty of Law at UiTM Malaysia. Her topic was ‘Old or New Food, Its time for a Better Food Regulation for Insects as Food in Malaysia’.

Dr Jayabalan advocated the consumption of insects as a source of food. Eating insects is not new. First Nations people around the world have been consuming insects forever. Malaysia’s neighbouring countries – Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – consume insects and sell them as street food. In Malaysia though, it is still considered repulsive.

To achieve this, regulation of the breeding, medicinal use and eating of insects is required. Safety and control measures are needed, from the time the insect is farmed to the time it arrives at the plate. Currently Malaysian laws focus on destruction and control of disease bearing insects where they are seen as pests, not food. They have lots of laws about consumption and quality of food, food sales, food labelling, food additives, treatment of animals but none in regards to insects as food or feed.

She explained that general standards for food are insufficient. Research indicates potential hazards with eating insects. Some carry heavy metals and pesticide residues, pathogen causing diseases and some cause allergies. Contamination occurs during processing and also some contain veterinary residues.

Dr Jayabalan suggested  laws are needed in the following areas:

  • Strict sanitary regulations for setting up farms;
  • Guidelines for mass-rearing of insects;
  • Authorisation for edible species;
  • Labelling;
  • Sanitary regulations for packaging and processing;
  • Adherence to Halal;
  • Compliance of international standards to facilitate trade of insects.

More information about the IJ RRR LP  journal, as well as a recording of the webinar, can be found here: