As the director of legislative affairs in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, W. Kam Quarles works on agriculture, sustainability, and food safety issues. These are areas he knows well, having served, previously, as the managing director of the Washington, D.C., office for Sunkist Growers; the vice president for legislative affairs and government relations at the United Fresh Produce Association; and the vice president for government affairs at the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Having worked, early in his career, as a staffer in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Quarles is an effective lobbyist, making him a choice addition to McDermott Will, one of the 10 largest law firms in the United States. He joined the Washington, D.C., office -- which has more than 200 lawyers -- of the Chicago-based firm in early 2010. Here, he discusses how consumers are taking more interest in their food, the risk that farmers face in bringing crops to market, and why sustainability and technology aren't mutually exclusive.
What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"
I work on food and agriculture policy.
What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the sustainability world?
Sustainability is so many things to so many people, its hard to focus on just one idea. I think the big idea is the effort itself; consumers are taking more interest in where their food comes from and that opens an opportunity for dialogue with everyone throughout the supply chain. However, that participation also comes with responsibility from all sides. The conversation should not revolve around a fanciful version of agriculture that only exists at cocktail parties.
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