Here’s the scenario: You decide to start selling the goods from your farm so that your community can enjoy fresh, unprocessed food from a local source. Somehow, the government finds out. How do they respond? Do they…
A) Applaud you for your entrepreneurial spirit?
B) Ask you to help them spread the word about other cow shares and co-ops in the area?
C) Tell you that you could face jail time for privately selling food to local consumers?
D) Take you away in handcuffs?
If you guessed A or B, wrong! If you’re Rawesome Foods, your answer is D. If you’re Alvin Shlangen or Amish dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, then the government handed you C (in the form of a lawsuit).
Think you control the right to choose what you eat? Think again. “In the name of food safety…the U.S. government has declared war on people who would dare to exercise their most fundamental human right to choose their food,” writes Joel Salatin in the Foreword to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights by journalist David E. Gumpert.
Salatin continues, “The fact that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution ever mentions the word food indicates that it was such a ubiquitous and common part of human experience that the framers of our country couldn’t imagine its restriction. Like air for breathing or sunshine for growing plants.”
This unprecedented government regulation and control has spurred activists and eaters across the country to cry out against such crackdowns and demand the right to choose what they put in their bodies.
Why are hard-working normally law-abiding farmers aligning with urban and suburban consumers to flaunt well-established food safety regulations and statutes? Why are parents, who want only the best for their children, seeking out food that regulators say could be dangerous? And, why are regulators and prosecutors feeling so threatened by this trend?
This erosion in the confidence of the food system carries serious implications. It financially threatens large corporations if long-established food brands come under prolonged and severe public questioning. It threatens economic performance if foods deemed “safe” become scarcer, and thus more expensive. And it is potentially explosive politically if too many people lose confidence in the professionalism of the food regulators who are supposed to be protecting us from tainted food, and encourages folks to exit the public food system for private solutions like the consumers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and elsewhere. Just look at the vituperative corporate response to recent consumer-led campaigns to label foods with genetically-modified ingredients.
As more consumers become intent on making the final decisions on what foods they are going to feed themselves and their families, and regulators become just as intent on asserting what they see as their authority over inspecting and licensing all food, ugly scenarios of agitated citizens battling government authorities over access to food staples seem likely to proliferate. It’s a recipe for a new kind of rights movement centered on the most basic acts—what we choose to eat.
“With incredible clarity and masterful storytelling, David Gumpert leads us on a journey into the trenches of America’s battle over food rights,” writes Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food. “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.”
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat is available now and on sale for 35% off.
Read the Introduction below.