Vanderbilt Law Review


Jim Chen

First Page



What God has created, agrarian debate has torn asunder. As successors to the neolithic agrarian pioneers' who chose to secure the blessings of agriculture to themselves and their posterity, we long to understand our common roots. But the deeper we dig, the more bitterly we dispute the exegesis of our shared stories of origins. Nothing has more explosive potential than a return to first principles, a quest for beginnings.

As the most palpable link between humanity and nature, agriculture often acts as a stark mirror of human values. American agricultural prescriptions frequently invoke the Book of Genesis, the grandest and most familiar story of origins in the Judeo-Christian tradition. One of the leading intellectual architects of New Deal farm policy, Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, vividly portrayed the supply control strategy of the 1930s as a modern application of the "ever normal granary" that Joseph established as a brilliant advisor to the pharaoh of Egypt. More recently, pleas to preserve biodiversity through stringent enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and the Convention on Biological Diversity have drawn emotional strength from the story of Noah's Ark. And no wonder: throughout time and across cultures, tales of a Great Flood have gripped the human imagination. Beneath a firmament that reflects the pattern of divine handiwork, human voices have sung the glory of God.? As we ponder how to navigate our agricultural ark across a troubled economic and ecological sea, we do well to consult the stars in that sky. Just as reliable food production sates material hunger, stories and songs of origins quench the spiritual thirst for enlightenment and understanding.