The Addictive Origins of Agriculture

In this episode of A Worldview Apart, I explore the origins of one of the fundamental practices underlying modern civilization: agriculture. In particular I investigate a controversial theory that states that ancient people’s adoption of agriculture, including the cultivation of cereal grains and the herding of mammals for meat and milk, was driven by the pursuit of opioid chemicals found in cereal grains and milk.

Episode Outline

  • Environmental and human health impacts associated with agriculture
  • A brief foray into ‘feel good’ chemicals: endorphins and our opioid receptors
  • Exogenous chemicals that can trigger our opioid receptors
  • Opioid chemicals identified in cereal grains and dairy products
  • Opioid chemicals and the origins of agriculture
  • Habits of hard-core addicts, and why we need to view agriculture as a societal addiction


  • Christine Zioudrou, et al. 1979. Opioid peptides derived from food proteins: the exorphins. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Vol 254, No 7, Pages 2446-2449.
  • Greg Wadley and Angus Martin. 1993. The origins of agriculture - a biological perspective and a new hypothesis. Australian Biologist. Vol 6, No 2, Pages 96-105.