Chelsea Green Publishing

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights

Pages:264 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603584043
Pub. Date June 05, 2013

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights

The Escalating Battle over Who Decides What We Eat

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
June 05, 2013


Do Americans have the right to privately obtain the foods of our choice from farmers, neighbors, and local producers, in the same way our grandparents and great grandparents used to do?

Yes, say a growing number of people increasingly afraid that the mass-produced food sold at supermarkets is excessively processed, tainted with antibiotic residues and hormones, and lacking in important nutrients. These people, a million or more, are seeking foods outside the regulatory system, like raw milk, custom-slaughtered beef, and pastured eggs from chickens raised without soy, purchased directly from private membership-only food clubs that contract with Amish and other farmers.

Public-health and agriculture regulators, however, say no: Americans have no inherent right to eat what they want. In today's ever-more-dangerous food-safety environment, they argue, all food, no matter the source, must be closely regulated, and even barred, if it fails to meet certain standards. These regulators, headed up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with help from state agriculture departments, police, and district-attorney detectives, are mounting intense and sophisticated investigative campaigns against farms and food clubs supplying privately exchanged food-even handcuffing and hauling off to jail, under threat of lengthy prison terms, those deemed in violation of food laws.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights takes readers on a disturbing cross-country journey from Maine to California through a netherworld of Amish farmers paying big fees to questionable advisers to avoid the quagmire of America's legal system, secret food police lurking in vans at farmers markets, cultish activists preaching the benefits of pathogens, U.S. Justice Department lawyers clashing with local sheriffs, small Maine towns passing ordinances to ban regulation, and suburban moms worried enough about the dangers of supermarket food that they'll risk fines and jail to feed their children unprocessed, and unregulated, foods of their choosing.

Out of the intensity of this unprecedented crackdown, and the creative and spirited opposition that is rising to meet it, a new rallying cry for food rights is emerging.


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


David E. Gumpert

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 (, and his many articles about food rights on 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.


The Raw Milk Revolution

The Raw Milk Revolution

By David E. Gumpert

Beginning in 2006, the agriculture departments of several large states-with backing from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-launched a major crackdown on small dairies producing raw milk. Replete with undercover agents, sting operations, surprise raids, questionable test-lab results, mysterious illnesses, propaganda blitzes, and grand jury investigations, the crackdown was designed to disrupt the supply of unpasteurized milk to growing legions of consumers demanding healthier and more flavorful food.

The Raw Milk Revolution takes readers behind the scenes of the government's tough and occasionally brutal intimidation tactics, as seen through the eyes of milk producers, government regulators, scientists, prosecutors, and consumers. It is a disturbing story involving marginally legal police tactics and investigation techniques, with young children used as political pawns in a highly charged atmosphere of fear and retribution.

Are regulators' claims that raw milk poses a public health threat legitimate? That turns out to be a matter of considerable debate. In assessing the threat, The Raw Milk Revolution reveals that the government's campaign, ostensibly designed to protect consumers from pathogens like salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, and listeria, was based in a number of cases on suspect laboratory findings and illnesses attributed to raw milk that could well have had other causes, including, in some cases, pasteurized milk.

David Gumpert dares to ask whether regulators have the public's interest in mind or the economic interests of dairy conglomerates. He assesses how the government's anti-raw-milk campaign fits into a troublesome pattern of expanding government efforts to sanitize the food supply-even in the face of ever-increasing rates of chronic disease like asthma, diabetes, and allergies. The Raw Milk Revolution provides an unsettling view of the future, in which nutritionally dense foods may be available largely through underground channels.

Available in: Paperback

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The Raw Milk Revolution

Joel Salatin, David E. Gumpert

Paperback $19.95


Weston Prince 2009 Conference Keynote

Gumpert Speaks at Harvard Food Law Society

Gumpert Speaks at Harvard Food Law Society

Raw Milk Debate - February 16, 2012

Raw Milk Debate - February 16, 2012

David Gumpert looks at the health benefits of raw milk


What Then Must We Do?

What Then Must We Do?

By Gar Alperovitz

Never before have so many Americans been more frustrated with our economic system, more fearful that it is failing, or more open to fresh ideas about a new one. The seeds of a new movement demanding change are forming.

But just what is this thing called a new economy, and how might it take shape in America? In What Then Must We Do? Gar Alperovitz speaks directly to the reader about where we find ourselves in history, why the time is right for a new-economy movement to coalesce, what it means to build a new system to replace the crumbling one, and how we might begin. He also suggests what the next system might look like—and where we can see its outlines, like an image slowly emerging in the developing trays of a photographer's darkroom, already taking shape.

He proposes a possible next system that is not corporate capitalism, not state socialism, but something else entirely—and something entirely American.

Alperovitz calls for an evolution, not a revolution, out of the old system and into the new. That new system would democratize the ownership of wealth, strengthen communities in diverse ways, and be governed by policies and institutions sophisticated enough to manage a large-scale, powerful economy.

For the growing group of Americans pacing at the edge of confidence in the old system, or already among its detractors, What Then Must We Do? offers an elegant solution for moving from anger to strategy.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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What Then Must We Do?

Gar Alperovitz

Hardcover $27.95

Learning Environment, Limits to Growth (CD-ROM)

Learning Environment, Limits to Growth (CD-ROM)

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

This disc is intended for serious students of Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. It permits users to reproduce and examine the details of the ten scenarios published in the book. The CD can be run on most Macintosh and PC operating systems. With it you will be able to:

  • Reproduce the three graphs for each of the scenarios as they appear in the book
  • Graph the eleven individual parameters for each scenario
  • Create comparative plots to examine the behavior of one parameter under the assumptions for two or more scenarios
  • Print out 47 key variables in five-year increments from 1900 to 2100 for any of the scenarios

The CD also includes:

  • Full model equations compatible with STELLA
  • Eighty-five JPEG files of the important book illustrations for use in lectures and classroom discussions.

Available in: CD-ROM

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Learning Environment, Limits to Growth (CD-ROM)

Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows

CD-ROM $20.00

Dreaming the Future

Dreaming the Future

By Kenny Ausubel

Few would deny that we are entering a period of great change. Our environment is collapsing. Social disruption abounds. All around, it seems, we are experiencing breakdown. But out of this chaos comes the opportunity for breakthrough-the opportunity to reimagine our future.

In Dreaming the Future, Kenny Ausubel leads us into that possible new world and introduces us to the thinkers and doers who are-sometimes quietly, sometimes not-leading what he calls "a revolution from the heart of nature and the human heart."

In a collection of short, witty, poignant, even humorous essays, Ausubel tracks the big ideas, emerging trends, and game-changing developments of our time. He guides us through our watershed moment, showing how it's possible to emerge from a world where corporations are citizens, the gap between rich and poor is cavernous, and biodiversity and the climate are under assault and create a world where we take our cues from nature and focus on justice, equity, diversity, democracy, and peace.

Even those steeped in the realities of a world gone wrong and efforts to right it will find refreshing, even surprising, perspectives in Dreaming the Future. It will come as no surprise to readers that Ausubel is cofounder of Bioneers-which foreword author David W. Orr describes as "one part global part catalytic organization."

Available in: Paperback

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Dreaming the Future

Kenny Ausubel, David W. Orr

Paperback $17.95

Lean Logic

Lean Logic

By David Fleming

Lean Logic is David Fleming’s masterpiece, the product of more than thirty years’ work and a testament to the creative brilliance of one of Britain’s most important intellectuals.

A dictionary unlike any other, it leads readers through Fleming’s stimulating exploration of fields as diverse as culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology, being made up of four hundred and seventy-two engaging essay-entries covering topics such as Boredom, Community, Debt, Growth, Harmless Lunatics, Land, Lean Thinking, Nanotechnology, Play, Religion, Spirit, Trust, and Utopia.

The threads running through every entry are Fleming’s deft and original analysis of how our present market-based economy is destroying the very foundations—ecological, economic, and cultural— on which it depends, and his core focus: a compelling, grounded vision for a cohesive society that might weather the consequences. A society that provides a satisfying, culturally-rich context for lives well lived, in an economy not reliant on the impossible promise of eternal economic growth. A society worth living in. Worth fighting for. Worth contributing to.

The beauty of the dictionary format is that it allows Fleming to draw connections without detracting from his in-depth exploration of each topic. Each entry carries intriguing links to other entries, inviting the enchanted reader to break free of the imposed order of a conventional book, starting where she will and following the links in the order of her choosing. In combination with Fleming’s refreshing writing style and good-natured humor, it also creates a book perfectly suited to dipping in and out.

The decades Fleming spent honing his life's work are evident in the lightness and mastery with which Lean Logic draws on an incredible wealth of cultural and historical learning—from Whitman to Whitefield, Dickens to Daly, Kropotkin to Kafka, Keats to Kuhn, Oakeshott to Ostrom, Jung to Jensen, Machiavelli to Mumford, Mauss to Mandelbrot, Leopold to Lakatos, Polanyi to Putnam, Nietzsche to Næss, Keynes to Kumar, Scruton to Shiva, Thoreau to Toynbee, Rabelais to Rogers, Shakespeare to Schumacher, Locke to Lovelock, Homer to Homer-Dixon—in demonstrating that many of the principles it commends have a track-record of success long pre-dating our current society.

Fleming acknowledges, with honesty, the challenges ahead, but rather than inducing despair, Lean Logic is rare in its ability to inspire optimism in the creativity and intelligence of humans to nurse our ecology back to health; to rediscover the importance of place and play, of reciprocity and resilience, and of community and culture.

Lean Logic is a comfort in disorientating times. A book to keep at your side. A dictionary of empowerment.

Available in: Hardcover

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Lean Logic

Shaun Chamberlin, Jonathon Porritt, David Fleming

Hardcover $49.95