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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle over Who Decides What We Eat Paperback – July 29, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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  • Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle over Who Decides What We Eat
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Editorial Reviews


ForeWord Reviews-

"Before the advent of pasteurization in the 1860s, there was no food processing and little regulation. Since then, “a lot has changed in attitudes and approaches toward food safety,” despite what some believe is evidence suggesting chemical processes that match FDA standards are unhealthy and raw foods are not dangerous. So claims journalist David E. Gumpert, who makes a strong case in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights that restrictions on raw food distribution and consumption are impinging our basic rights as American citizens.

The journey begins when Gumpert introduces readers to Dan Allgyer, an Amish farmer whose home was raided by the FDA when the agency discovered he was selling unpasteurized dairy products to consenting consumers through a food club. Though he’d been running his business for many years, Allgyer began to worry when hearing of other farmers who had been forced by the FDA to destroy thousands of dollars worth of food, even made to pour bleach over it so they could not feed it to their own pigs.

The examples Gumpert provides of overregulation—such as the illegality of raw milk, even when produced for private use by a family cow, and the FDA’s destruction of raw foods that tested negative for harmful bacteria—are made more assertive by quotes from first-hand witnesses, legal documents, and testimonies, which he skillfully weaves into the narrative to make for both an engaging and authoritative read.

Also effective are Gumpert’s inclusions of a short history of food processing and FDA regulations, as well as statistics regarding how safe it is to consume raw food. He shares the stories of parents of children with ADHD and asthma who have shown improvement without medication, crediting their health to daily consumption of raw milk.

While the lay reader may have difficulties following the pasteurization process lingo and legal jargon, those with knowledge of food regulation, farmers and co-op members, or those interested in public administration, will admire Gumpert’s efforts. This book is not simply a portrayal of people who have been affected by the increased enforcement of FDA regulations, but is more significantly an argument against regulations that infringe on Americans’ rights to choose what they eat or drink."

Kirkus Reviews-

"[David] Gumpert (The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, 2009, etc.) illustrates how Americans have lost the freedom to make their own decisions when it comes to procuring and consuming food, which he considers outrageous. Through extensive passages on organizations, such as the now-shuttered California-based Rawesome Foods, Washington, D.C.–based Grassfed on the Hill, accounts of their Amish suppliers and their encounters with the FDA as well as local public health officials, Gumpert considers some of the still largely unresolved legalities surrounding the sale of raw milk, pastured eggs and other raw foods. He also presents a brief overview of issues familiar to those engaged in food rights activism, including debates on the merits of raw milk in alleviating health problems versus fears of pathogens and outbreaks. Gumpert makes it clear that he sides with the right for private groups to operate without interference, raising basic yet worthy questions on fundamental rights with well-chosen examples of police overreaction, including undercover raids, trespassing, confiscation, mass-disposal of foods and dramatic arrests. Still, he does not write with an overly alarmist tone and fairly portrays the quirks and flaws in the individuals involved—e.g., author and war food activist Aajonus Vonderplanitz.


Enriched with historical references ranging from Pasteur to de Tocqueville, this is an accessible, if at times exhaustively detailed, work valuable for its reportage of incidents that have remained largely unknown to the average citizen."

“It seems far-fetched to think that ‘police’ in black suits would make an assault on what we-the-people have forever assumed was our right to eat what we want to eat. Based on an extraordinary journalistic investigation, David Gumpert makes a compelling case that we are witnessing a concerted national program to shut down the buying and selling of pure, wholesome, unadulterated food—farm by farm and state by state. These assaults, being carried out on farmers in the name of ‘food safety,’ are jeopardizing our basic liberties, which must include access to foods that keep us healthy. There is no bigger story, and Gumpert has told it in a compelling, highly readable fashion.” --Abby Rockefeller, president of the Resource Institute for Low Entropy Systems and author of the scientific paper “Civilization and Sludge”

“A wakeup call for anyone who eats, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights is an exposé on the American government’s calculated attack and sinister use of brute force on family farmers and consumers involved in the local food movement. Through harrowing tales of government spying and raids, David Gumpert demonstrates how complacency has allowed corporations to manipulate federal agencies and gain complete control of our entire food supply. If you care about what your family eats, read this book.”--Linda Faillace, author of Mad Sheep: The True Story of the USDA’s War on a Family Farm

“An issue this important should have its own revolutionary flag. The image would show a farmer and a neighbor exchanging food above the classic motto ‘Don’t tread on me.’ This is a revolution that needs to happen. What could be more important to all of us than control over the quality of food we put in our bodies?”--Eliot Coleman, author of The Winter Harvest HandbookFour-Season Harvest, and The New Organic Grower

Publishers Weekly-

"Journalist Gumpert (The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights) chronicles the increasing government regulator crackdowns on private food clubs and the farmers who provide for them, drawing vocal and heretofore unnoticed attention to the lack of freedom Americans have over what they eat, due to the watchful eye of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The book contains many disturbing examples, from the farmer who faced jail time for providing raw milk to customers without proper licensing or labeling—though they were clamoring for the product, owned the cows through a co-op, and also never became sick—to the distributors for food clubs who saw close to six figures worth of food destroyed by regulators on cursory evidence, followed by their own trip in the back of a paddy wagon. Unfortunately, the book reads like a call to arms for those who already share Gumpert’s point of view. The book would have benefitted from further discussion of the few examples where people did become sick from private food sources, and analysis of the government regulators’ perspective. Despite the occasionally chaotic narrative, Gumpert commendably draws attention to a multitude of injustices committed in the name of food safety."

“With incredible clarity and masterful storytelling, David Gumpert leads us on a journey into the trenches of America’s battle over food rights. No one knows this terrain and understands the implications as thoroughly as Gumpert, and the result is a book that will by turns enrage and inspire you. The battle for the right to nourish our bodies with real food must be won, and this book is an essential part of making that happen.” --Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food 

“This book will get you fired up! David Gumpert makes an eloquent case for the importance of food rights and documents the actions of government regulators against small farms and buyers clubs. These infuriating stories are woven together and contextualized by Gumpert’s insightful legal and political analysis. For anyone interested in reclaiming food, this book shows you that you are part of a larger political struggle.” --Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, and Wild Fermentation 

“The 18th century was the century of political rights; the 19th century was the century of women’s rights; the 20th century was the century of civil rights. The challenge of the 21st century will be the struggle for food and farming rights. Thanks to the work of David Gumpert in chronicling this ongoing battle, we have a roadmap for establishing the right to access the foods of our choice.  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights is highly recommended for anyone interested in family farms and nutrient-dense food.”--Sally Fallon Morell, president, The Weston A. Price Foundation

"David Gumpert plucks out some of the most salient battles in this current food war and brings them to our awareness with the storytelling genius of a spy novel. The intrigue, the angst, the heartache and heroism are all displayed."--Joel Salatin, from the Foreword

About the Author

David E. Gumpert has become a nationally recognized writer and authority on the intersection of food, health, and business by virtue of his widely acclaimed book The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, as well as his provocative and popular blog, The Complete Patient (www.thecompletepatient.com), and his many articles about food rights on Grist.org and The Huffington Post. He gained behind-the-scenes access to the key participants and vast government documentation necessary to write Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights. A former reporter with The Wall Street Journal and editor at Inc. and Harvard Business Review, Gumpert has brought his considerable investigative and journalistic experience and business expertise (author or coauthor of seven books about small business and entrepreneurship) to bear in articulating the corporate, legal, and political forces driving Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (June 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603584048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603584043
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amy M. Salberg on June 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
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.
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Once again David Gumpert has brought valuable information to light. This book is a must read for everyone! I can't emphasis the importance of sharing this book with friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues. It is surprising how many people are unaware of what has been happening, let alone have no idea of the seriousness with regards to the issue of food rights. David brings to startlingly clarity the current mindset within the government and legal arenas that we have "no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food." This is very disturbing as I thought we lived in a free nation and have the rights to do so. Not so, according to the current mindset of these groups! As the issue of increasing health problems continues to escalate, the need to look at poor and low quality of standard foods that are being produced and provided to the masses is imperative. Having been in the medical field for over 30 years, I have watched the health of people, especially children, decline at a disturbing and alarming rate. Why is there a huge increase in obesity, diabetes, autism, allergies, asthma, digestive and intestinal problems? There is only one significant source that can answer this question and that is our food sources. The increase of highly processed foods, the mega and over use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, etc, have all drastically compromised the quality and safety of food sources from the commercial producers and processors nationwide. I raised four daughters on nutrient dense foods. Everything was made fresh, from scratch (no, it does not take long to do) and from fresh sources. My kitchen did not have processed foods, candy, soda, cookies, chips, etc, in it.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
LOVE this book!!!

David's excellent insight, narrative skill & credible resources gave me a very clear understanding of the circumstances, the intimidation and hell that these American farmers and citizens have/are facing: Ludicrously "guilty" for providing and receiving nourishing wholesome food or PURE (RAW) MILK for their neighbors and communities, direct. And he demonstates the tactics that the FDA, food safety and agricultural gov't agencies nationwide employ to crack down against them.

The book, with all of it's twisting and turning paths of heartbreaking events (unfortunately for those affected) as well as historical pertinent references, is a captivating read & it was hard for me to set down.

It is a mind numbing and sobering realization that, with the help of David's insights, his descriptive accuracy, vivid depictions accounting these `crackdowns' (real events of innocent farmers and private citizens being harassed, criminalized, incarcerated by our own officials in the name of `food safety') are interwoven and related in various levels of state and federal government agencies-nationwide.

Ironically, as this book released, NSA leaks hit the press, which prompts the question: Why is it that we have become a nation where our own government is controlling every aspect of our lives? Wire tapping, monitoring email and controlling our food ??? Have American's lost their fighting independent spirit as our previous generations had & we have become complacent?

My hope is that enough people will come to know and read this book, learn about Food Rights, learn about these unfortunate events and realize that anything like this could happen to them.
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