Agriculture, End to End
Global Food Value Chains and Competition Law (Ioannis Lianos, Alexey Ivanov & Dennis Davis eds., Cambridge University Press 2021), chapter 4, pp. 73–101
29 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2018 Last revised: 25 Aug 2021
Date Written: July 24, 2018
Agriculture consists of a process for converting energy and biological information into physical products for human consumption. Increasingly sophisticated biotechnology in agricultural inputs makes manifest this definition of agriculture as information flow. The architectural ideal in information science is the end-to-end principle. All intelligence within an information platform arises from its ends. The corollary of the end-to-end principle, however, is that intervening layers facilitating the transmission of intelligence become “dumb pipe,” whose sole contribution consists of efficient transport of information. Within its own domain, agriculture has become dumb pipe. The rise of bioengineered inputs has rendered obsolete the evolutionary contribution of farmers. At the other end of the value chain, consumer-driven preferences in food restrict the inputs that farmers may deploy. “Intelligence” propelled by preferences and tastes among affluent consumers constrain choices traditionally exercised by farmers. This exercise in virtue signaling exerts further competitive pressure. Driving all intelligence in the agricultural supply chain to its ends — where biotechnology reinvents basic inputs in an epoch of resource exhaustion and where consumer tastes dictate practices on the farm — compels a fundamental reevaluation of agriculture’s legal and economic premises.
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