The COVID pandemic has brought a spectacular prominence to the role of digital technologies in public health. However, the policy discourse about digital technology has been for the most part strikingly narrow. Even as there is a discussion of the impact of particular digital tools, there is relatively little deliberation on the broader issues of how these technologies are reconstituting core aspects of health systems and polities. How did we get to a narrow debate on a vast topic? One way to understand this irony is by turning to the history of an older technology, namely agricultural biotechnology. This article focuses on two dominant framings that significantly narrowed the debates on agricultural biotechnology: first, a narrative that had a relentless focus on agricultural biotechnology as a neatly delineated field that produced stable products, and second, the ascent of a language of ethics that elided structural explanations and addressed only downstream impacts. The brief foray into the early years of agricultural biotechnology is useful in understanding contemporary politics of digital technology.