If you’re interested in reading about the struggle that many of us share exercising what we feel is our right to pursue real food, David E. Gumpert’s book Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle over Who Decides What We Eat is right up your alley.
Reader Amy M. Salberg gives an excellent review, which is thoughtful and well-written, where she highly recommends the book:
What makes this book so engaging are the numerous stories of real struggles by real people trying to sell and acquire real food, skillfully set against the backdrop of the history of food regulation in the United States. These vignettes give us a glimpse into how the regulatory state and regulatory overreach have affected numerous people throughout the country for many years, with significant escalation in the past 10 or so years. The lengths to which regulators have gone to entrap food producers and criminalize private conduct, detailed in the book, is alarming. In a chapter titled “The Violent Birth of the Food Rights Movement,” Gumpert describes the Agent 007-esque tactics employed by some regulators donning camera purses and shirts equipped with button cameras to infiltrate a food market. It begs the question, Why is small food such a big threat?
Evoking thoughts of the recent PRISM scandal, the book details the often secret and nefarious relationship between federal and state agencies – particularly the FDA and its state counterparts. Agencies at all levels of government try to hide their incestuous relationships, but open records requests and Gumpert’s diligent research have uncovered many such hidden relationships. The need for government transparency was never as pressing as it is now.
From “The Hundred Year War Against Raw Milk,” to the “legal morass” of the USDA/FDA and various state agencies as they attempt to regulate food, Gumpert describes how the failure to question “regulatory judgment” about food safety has put us all at a far greater risk than the risk of getting sick: the loss of our civil liberties as we trust “geographically remote and seemingly arbitrary” governmental authorities to determine what we may and may not eat. This misplaced trust has led these authorities to seize more and more power, while many stand by and allow them to.
This book has it all: history, politics, science, literature, even math (statistics), but the masterful way these disciplines are woven together with an engaging narrative results in a rich and full, but uncluttered, story. I found its pace both fast-moving enough to keep my interest and gentle enough to prevent emotional overwhelm from precluding enjoyment of the experience. I went from clenching my jaw during the story of a raid to enjoying a reprieve in the broader annals of the history of food regulation.
In short, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in food regulation, food rights, and even the relationship between food safety and personal liberty.