48 Hours in New Orleans: Food, Drugs, and – Oh, Right – Law

February 21, 2016

By Ricardo Carvajal

The prompt was an invitation to speak at the 21st Annual Tulane Environmental Law and Policy Summit on the pros and cons of genetically engineered food animals, in the wake of FDA’s approval of AquAdvantage salmon as a new animal drug (a topic we’ve addressed here, here, here, here, and here).  The panel featured a lively exploration of the issue from multiple perspectives, yielding perhaps only one point of agreement: the debate will continue, and is one to which any developer of such products had better be attuned.

A more traditional approach to food production was the subject of a panel on urban farming, a movement that has blossomed in a number of cities throughout the U.S. in response to demand for locally produced foods.  For the moment, the scale of production appears too small to face significant hurdles under Federal regulation, particularly requirements scheduled to take effect under FSMA.  That could change as investors start to ply the sector and finance development of larger scale production.  State and local requirements are another matter, especially those that govern zoning, land use, and product liability.  Solutions to those challenges have been found in a number of municipalities, and the movement can be expected to continue to grow in response to locavore demand.

Three detours were well worth any food and drug lawyer’s time.  The first was to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, which features a stunning collection of insects and related critters – many of importance in agricultural production.  When hunger strikes, the Insectarium houses Bug Appétit, a forward-looking snack bar that features culinary creations made from a variety of insects, and is in tune with the developing market for commercially produced insect-derived foods. 

The second detour was to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, which is devoted to the early history of pharmacology.  The site belonged to Louis Dufilho, reportedly America's first licensed pharmacist, and includes exhibits on a wide range of products and practices common in 19th century – some of which helped to set the stage for passage and enactment of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Law.

Finally, there’s the music – food and medicine for the soul?  One of its finest purveyors is Johnny Vidacovich, a New Orleans institution who maintains a performing schedule that would make many-a-youngster wilt – and who provided a fine cap to a very worthwhile 48 hours.