Anthropocene Agricultural Law

3 Texas A&M L. Rev. 745-770 (2016)

26 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2016 Last revised: 30 Jun 2016

See all articles by James Ming Chen

James Ming Chen

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: April 9, 2016


Agricultural controversies in affluent, comfortably fed countries increasingly emphasize the esthetic or expressive elements of food. Consumer advocates can indulge in litigation over foie gras, for instance, or coffee production certification. This expressive turn elevates the ornamental aspects of food at the expense of agriculture's utilitarian purposes. The modernist principles articulated in Adolf Loos's "Ornament und Verbrechung" urge the subordination of agriculture's ornamental aspects in favor of its original instrumentalist underpinnings.

Meanwhile, ecological disaster looms. Human ecological impacts are so severe that geological history has arguably entered a new epoch, the Anthropocene. Exhaustion of vital inputs (petroleum, phosphorus) and evolutionary calamity (mass extinctions, herbicide and pesticide resistance) threatens future agricultural productivity. Food security and the economic foundations of civilization hang precariously in the balance.

Human beings, however, follow their own rules of risk perception and evaluation. Humans actively prefer hybrid risk management strategies that blend a commitment to securing at least minimal subsistence with high upside potential. The simultaneous pursuit of subsistence and symbolic beauty through food affirms both agrarian tradition and human risk-taking preferences. By the same token, these preferences cast doubt on the agricultural system's preparedness for the challenges of the Anthropocene.

Suggested Citation

Chen, James Ming, Anthropocene Agricultural Law (April 9, 2016). 3 Texas A&M L. Rev. 745-770 (2016). Available at SSRN: or

James Ming Chen (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics