How should food decisions be made?

I enjoy reading Nathanael Johnson's writings about food.  While I may not always agree with every conclusion, his writings are typically thoughtful and well informed.  Such is the case with an article he wrote last week for Grist on the role of big business in food.  

While the article is ostensibly a neutral look a different ideological/political perspectives on the role of business in food, the article begins with what is a decidedly ideological perspective:

Let’s pretend we are the members of a committee with broad power to reshape the food system (perhaps for a nation, perhaps for a municipality, perhaps for the world). Our goal is to allow our polis to feed itself in a way that is equitable and environmentally sustainable. We can do whatever we want: dissolve Monsanto, provide guaranteed basic income for everyone, fund new forms of agricultural research, force everyone to drink gluten-free almond milk cocktails mixed with plant blood … anything!

What foundational principles should we use to form this food system?

The article positions the reader as the "decider" - as a member of the technocratic committee with the power to know and to choose.

But, there is another perspective that posits that no committee has enough information to reliably make such judgments.  That view is perhaps most reflected in the writings of Hayek (for example, see his 1945 article  in the American Economic Review- The Use of Knowledge in Society).

This perspective - with which I largely agree - typically doesn't ask what an idealized world looks like and then ask how we can top-down engineer that outcome, but rather looks at the world around us which is (largely) informed by individual choices incentivized by market prices to reveal information about what people think best makes them better off.  This is not a defense of "big business" in agriculture , but rather a recognition of why those businesses came to exist and how those businesses are influenced by millions of consumer and farmer choices.  

One can often crudely characterize left vs. right thinking by whether one thinks it is big business vs. government that is to blame for whatever ills exist in life.  No doubt both governments and businesses both do some good and some bad.  What causes me to tend toward favoring market-based decisions (which often gets wrongly conflated with being "pro-business") is precisely the sorts of discussion in the opining lines of Johnson's piece.  Government decisions are often made by committees of "experts" with deep knowledge in a narrow field of expertise, but without a lot of knowledge areas that fall outside their expertise.  Their decisions carry the force of law and are often difficult to overturn.  Market-based decisions, however, are based on millions of individual choices by people with their own disparate knowledge.  Markets tend to distribute power rather than concentrate it.  Yes, there are some big businesses in agriculture, but if you look at the data, they don't tend to be highly profitable, and they are in stiff competition with other agribusinesses.  If there are barriers that prevent competition, we should work to remove them (sometimes those barriers are the result of anti-business activities which drive up the cost of getting regulatory approval for new technologies).  

In any event, it is important to recognize that framing an issue as "how will 'we' decide" is as ideological (and I don't mean that in a pejorative way) as is the question of the role of business in agriculture.  A paper a few years back in Science on the "Social Values and Governance of Science" perhaps makes that as explicit as any when asking citizens, for a variety of technologies, how they believe such decisions should be made: by experts of the general public.