Karen Ellis Carr

Karen is a Partner in Arent Fox’s Washington, DC office.
Karen Ellis Carr, Partner, Washington DC at Arent Fox

Karen’s practice is focused on biotechnology, pesticide law, environmental law, and related litigation. Karen represents large and small members of the regulated community in litigation under a number of federal environmental and administrative law statutes, regulatory and product counseling, and on issues related to advertising and labeling, testing and reporting, and data use and compensation disputes.

In addition to her work with individual companies, Karen has represented a number of industry associations in litigation, coordination of industry regulatory strategy, and federal and state legislative issues. Karen has first- and second-chaired matters in numerous state and federal trial and appellate courts throughout the country and in arbitration and mediation, and has experience in all phases of litigation from pre-litigation strategy and counseling to settlement negotiation and appeals.

Agricultural Law and Litigation

In the area of agricultural law and litigation, Karen has significant experience with regulatory counseling and litigation under FIFRA, NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, the Plant Protection Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Representative cases include:

  • Representing industry trade association and agricultural grower groups in a challenge to EPA’s framework for the regulation of treated seeds (2016 WL 6834215 (N.D. Cal., Nov. 21, 2016)
  • Representing biotechnology developer in federal court challenge to FDA’s first approval of a genetically engineered animal for food use
  • Assisting companies in obtaining approvals for new, genetically engineered plant varieties from USDA and FDA
  • Serving as outside counsel to biotechnology, seed, and crop protection industry associations
  • Representing industry coalition successfully seeking passage of uniform federal disclosure standard for bioengineered foods and in associated rulemaking proceedings
  • Representing a biotechnology company defending permits granted by USDA under the Plant Protection Act, NEPA, and Endangered Species Act (2011 WL 4737405 (S.D. Fla., Oct. 6, 2011))
  • Representing crop protection developers in data compensation arbitrations under FIFRA
  • Representing an industry trade association as amicus/intervenor in multiple biotechnology-related NEPA lawsuits (D.D.C.)
  • Providing pre-litigation strategy and counseling for an agricultural products company on matters relating to biotechnology

Firm Activities and Pro Bono

Karen serves in numerous firm leadership positions and maintains an active pro bono practice. Karen currently serves on the Advisory Board for Legal Counsel for the Elderly, a DC-based legal services provider. Karen is a member of the firm’s Financial Management and Pro Bono Committees and is active in the firm’s Women’s Initiative.

Previous Work

Before joining Arent Fox, Karen served as a law clerk for the Honorable James P. Jones, Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia. While in law school, Karen served as a judicial extern for Judge Ann Aiken, US District Court for the District of Oregon and as a law clerk for the Special Litigation Unit of the Oregon Department of Justice. While in law school, Karen was an executive editor ofOregon Law Review. She also served as a fellow for the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

Publications, Presentations & Recognitions

Karen routinely speaks on biotechnology, crop protection and chemical regulation, and food labeling, and environmental law. Her recent speaking engagements include:

  • "GE Labeling Update," IFT Food Policy Impact; February 6, 2018 (Washington, DC)
  • "Industry & Consumer Responses & Action Related to GMO Labeling," Q1 Productions' Food Labeling Conference; January 29, 2018 (Arlington, VA)
  • "From Farm to Table – The Future of GMO Plants and Animals," NYSBA Food, Drug & Cosmetic Law Section Meeting; January 25, 2018 (New York, NY) 
  • "Regulatory and Legislative Status of Labeling Policy Issues," 2017 Food Safety Consortium; November 30, 2017 (Chicago, IL)
  • "USDA and FDA Regulatory Proposals on Plant and Animal Products of Biotechnology," and "National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law," Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) Food and Agriculture Section’s Lobbyist Summit; November 13-15, 2017 (Des Moines, IA) 
  • "Toxic Substances Control Act," ORC HSE Legal Issues Network; November 7, 2017 (National Harbor, MD)
  • "FIFRA 101," State Farm Bureau Meeting; October 26, 2017 (Louisville, KY)
  • Moderator, "New Developments in Pesticide Law and Policy,"  Biotech Panel, American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) Pesticides, Chemical Regulation, and Right-to-Know Committee and CropLife America Annual Conference; April 19, 2017 (Washington, DC)
  • “Navigating the Environmental Policy Landscape,” Farm Foundation Round Table; January 5, 2017 (Irvine, CA)
  • “GMO Disclosure Law Update,” Arent Fox Webinar; October 19, 2016
  • “GMO Labeling Requirements: What Happens Now?” National Confectioners Association (NCA) Washington Forum Regulatory Update; September 15, 2016 (Washington, DC)
  • “Food, Agriculture and the Life Sciences,” International Bar Association (IBA) World Life Sciences Conference; June 4, 2016 (San Diego, CA)
  • Moderator, “Food, Agriculture, and the Right-to-Know,” American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources Pesticide, Chemical Regulation and Right-to-Know Committee and CropLife America Meeting; October 14, 2015 (Washington, DC)
  • Moderator, “Food, Feed and Fuel: Navigating the Global Regulatory Odyssey for AG Biotech,” International Bar Association (IBA) World Life Sciences Conference; June 13, 2015 (Philadelphia, PA)

Karen writes often on biotechnology, crop protection, and food labeling topics. Her recent publications include:

  • “EU Court Offers Preview of Potential Regulatory Approach for Gene Edited Plants,” Arent Fox Client Alert; February 15, 2018
  • “Biotech Policy Takes Shape: Rural Task Force Encourages Innovation and Regulatory Coordination,” Arent Fox Client Alert; January 22, 2018
  • "Status and Outlook of Food Labeling Proposals," co-written with Brian Ronholm, Food Safety Tech; October 17, 2017
  • “More Controls Needed to Prevent Organic Import Fraud, Says USDA OIG,” Arent Fox Client Alert; October 12, 2017
  • “Another Front Opens Up on Food Disclosure,” Arent Fox Client Alert; October 10, 2017
  • “USDA Releases Bioengineered Food Disclosure Report,” Arent Fox Client Alert; September 14, 2018
  • “Perdue Confirmed; Activity Begins on Bioengineered Food Disclosure Rulemaking and Other Food Policy Issues,” Arent Fox Client Alert; April 27, 2017
  • “Future of Biotech: National Academies Committee Report Scans the Horizon,” Arent Fox Client Alert; March 15, 2017
  • “USDA and FDA Issue Proposals to Regulate Genome Edited Plants, Animals, and Microorganisms,” Arent Fox Client Alert; January 19, 2017
  • “House Passes Bipartisan GMO Disclosure Bill, Sends to President for Signature,” Arent Fox Client Alert; July 14, 2016

Karen was also recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” in the Complex Litigation category. 

  • Bar & Court Admissions
    • District of Columbia Bar
    • Virginia Bar
    • US District Court, District of Maryland
    • US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia
    • US Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit
    • US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
    • US District Court, District of Columbia
    • US District Court, Western District of Virginia
  • Education
    University of Oregon School of Law
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill