Thursday, March 1, 2001

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172, pharr@arches.uga.edu

CONTACT: Environmental Law Association, www.lawsch.uga.edu/~redclay


Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to Speak

ATHENS, Ga. -- As the human population soars, feeding the world becomes an increasingly difficult dilemma. Highly contagious maladies like foot-and-mouth disease threaten international livestock. Some of the most promising scientific breakthroughs designed to expand and improve food production raise fundamental questions about safety, ethics and environmental impact.

The 13th annual Red Clay Conference, an environmental law symposium sponsored by the University of Georgia School of Law's Environmental Law Association (ELA), will focus upon the critical concern of the world's food supply in "Farming the Environment: Issues in Sustainable Dining," a day-long seminar to be held Friday, March 16 at Dean Rusk Hall. The conference is open free to the public.

Keynote speakers include former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Professor J.B. Ruhl of Florida State University. Both keynote lectures, as well as lunch and receptions, will be held on the fourth floor of Dean Rusk Hall.

"The need for good food and clean water is perhaps the most universal reason that people become interested in environmental issues," said Jenny Culler, ELA president. "We hope to explore with this year's Red Clay Conference the processes that bring the food to our plates, the problems surrounding these processes, and ways we can all work to ensure healthful and sustainable dining."

The Red Clay Conference begins at 8:30 a.m. with a welcome from the man widely regarded as the father of ecosystem ecology, Professor and Director Emeritus of the University of Georgia's Institute of Ecology Eugene Odum. Five segments of panel discussions follow, addressing implications of the new USDA organic labeling regulations, genetically modified foods, irrigation and clean water issues, animal rights, cloning, fish consumption guidelines, and pesticide use. Speakers include representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, leading researchers like UGA's renowned cloning expert Steve Stice, Georgia Legal Watch, Georgia Organics, attorneys and professors specializing in environmental issues, and many others.

Dan Glickman's presents the afternoon keynote address at 2 p.m. As Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton, Glickman led the USDA during a time of tremendous challenge and transition for America's farming and rural communities. The turbulent farm economy surged to record highs in commodity prices and agricultural exports, then plunged to record lows. Glickman pursued a balanced approach to federal land management through the U.S. Forest Service - also under the USDA's umbrella - striving to ensure that environmental and sustainability concerns were critical parts of the federal policy that governed nearly 200 million acres of public lands. Glickman had 10,000 employees overseeing food safety functions around the country and, under his watch, the USDA replaced antiquated food safety regulations with a new science-based meat and poultry inspection system that reduced outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. In addition, Glickman served as a strong voice on the issue of genetically modified foods. He advocated biotechnology and its potential to increase agricultural productivity and preserve natural resources; at the same time, he took steps to ensure that the new technology is governed by a thorough, untainted regulatory approval process which is based on sound science.

J.B. Ruhl, an environmental law scholar and teacher at Florida State University, presents the morning keynote address on farming law and its environmental impact at 11 a.m. Ruhl is a prolific author in the environmental field and serves as the executive editor of Natural Resources and the Environment, a quarterly publication sponsored by the Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law of the American Bar Association. He was formerly an attorney in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas.

The Red Clay Conference is graciously underwritten by the Turner Foundation. Additional support for Glickman's address is provided by the UGA School of Law, College of Agricultural and Environmental Science, Institute of Ecology, and Warnell School of Forest Resources. The Red Clay Conference was the first annual law school-sponsored environmental symposium in the eastern United States. Each year, a full spectrum of views from the private legal sector, corporate/business sector, government and public interest groups is represented.

The Environmental Law Association is a non-profit law school student organization whose members are concerned about promoting environmental awareness. Although the conference is free to the public, those who pre-register on the ELA website will have the option of purchasing lunch and a bound copy of the conference proceedings for $15 (www.lawsch.uga.edu/~redclay). Attorneys attending the Red Clay sessions may earn continuing legal education (CLE) credit, payment for which is due at the end of the conference.