My academic work primarily focuses on public international law, technology and innovation law and policy, global economic governance and intellectual property rights. At its core, my research reinvigorates the legal study of global governance systems and its impact on innovations that tackle pressing social, economic and political challenges to public health, the environment and the global supply of foodstuffs. Building on applied methods of law and, my work integrates contemporary legal theories of sociology and economy to devise whether and to what extent new technological advances impact the development of the law as a whole. Specifically, my research asks how new forms of global governance, such as technical standards, primary and secondary legislation, as well as best practices and codes of conduct are transforming both the nature of the global supply chain and the activities of stakeholders involved in the international trade cycle, including its implications for IP rights. It ultimately aims at improving efficiencies and addressing global challenges such as climate change, food security and animal welfare from a legal and regulatory perspective.
My current project profiles the developing, manufacturing and marketing of alternative proteins to establish links between the role played by technical regulations on food labelling and access to trademark rights. Specifically, this work focuses on the emerging field of cellular technologies and its implications for domestic and international legal regimes applying to the free flow of foodstuffs. Promoted as a more sustainable alternative to conventional proteins, research into cell-based agri- and aquaculture products (cultivated meats) has gained new urgency in response to pressing global challenges. In essence, cultivated meats are meats produced by tissue and bioprocess engineering that result in a product that is molecularly identical to conventional meats. In light of this, some initial regulatory activity with the aim of accommodating (or hindering) the placing on the market of cultured meat products could be identified in different jurisdictions. Nonetheless, the regulatory pushback from established global market players in the meat, fish and diary industries is already noticeable. For cultivated meats start-ups, their new products provide the most efficient answer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, feed a growing world population and prevent food-borne diseases. For conventional producers of food, cellular technology products are artificial and thus, not equivalent for the purposes of market share. Yet the process of regulating emerging transformative technologies remains fragmented and underdeveloped, and its potential effects on international economic law (IEL) remain unexplored. This work ultimately argues that international law has the ability to contribute to better global governance by accommodating higher public policy imperatives, such as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Cultural and anthropological practices around food and its consumption add another layer of difficulty, especially for international legal regimes.
My previous work addressed the evolution of new governance mechanisms to ensure that global food demands are met. The main research output resulted in a monograph published in the Series Studies on Global Economic Governance, edited by Prof. Thomas Cottier, and was titled ‘Global Food Governance: Implications of Food Safety and Quality Standards in International Trade Law’ (Berne:Peter Lang 2015). This work was premised in the assumption that the law of the World Trade Organisation has succeeded to varying extents in providing a multilateral framework for the development of new food regulatory practices. However, changing trends in the production and distribution of food products, as well as ongoing worldwide outbreaks of food-borne diseases, have questioned the effectiveness of the regulatory status quo. The result is a progressively complex network of food safety and quality standards influencing global trade that are seemingly unable to operate on a domestic and public level alone. I ultimately show how these newly developed food standards are international and private in nature, driven by the increasing globalisation of the food supply chain and the economic and political dominance of non-state actors. Although the use of different regulatory approaches, such as harmonisation, coordination and equivalence, could arguably warrant legal inclusivity, my work shows that the tension created by the public/private legal dichotomy under which these standards materially operate remains unresolved, and asks whether there is a need and for new legal and regulatory structures that guarantee the free flow of goods.