David Gumpert

David Gumpert is the author of The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights (Chelsea Green, 2009). He is also a journalist who specializes in covering the intersection of health and business. Read more on his blog.

Raw deal

Raids are increasing on farms and private food-supply clubs — here are 5 tips for surviving one

When the 20 agents arrived bearing a search warrant at her Ventura County farmhouse door at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday a couple weeks back, Sharon Palmer didn’t know what to say. This was the third time she was being raided in 18 months, and she had thought she was on her way to resolving the problem over labeling of her goat cheese that prompted the other two raids. (In addition to producing goat’s milk, she raises cattle, pigs, and chickens, and makes the meat available via a CSA.) But her 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, wasn’t the least bit tongue-tied. “She …

What Is Our "Right" to Opt Out of the Industrial Food System?

Slavery. Women prohibited from voting. No home schooling allowed. No interracial marriage. These were all official government policy at one time in America’s history, and have since been rejected by the courts. Now, the courts should break with another major taboo: restrictions on our access to food, most notably, raw milk. That’s the argument being presented by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of a group of consumer and farmer plaintiffs suing top officials of the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In a response to a government motion in April to …

Farmer vs farmer

Organic Valley lays down the law on raw milk

Organic Valley started up in 1988 with a vision of being a different kind of milk cooperative, one that helped save small family dairies via promoting organic dairy products. “It was an idealistic, mission-oriented place in those days, spreading the gospel about the benefits of organic dairy and founded on the premise of economic-justice for farmers,” recalls Mark Kastel, who served as a consultant to Organic Valley a year after it launched. (He’s currently head of the Cornucopia Institute, a watchdog organization that monitors dairy compliance with organic standards.) That idealism and Americans’ insatiable appetite for organic food helped propel …

In Court Case, FDA Takes a Strong Stand Against Unabridged Food and Health Rights

The expanding battle over raw milk has come to be seen by many advocates as a battle over food rights. Do we have a right to consume the foods of our choice? Or can the government restrict our access, or require processing and/or sterilization of certain foods, and simultaneously prohibit our access to the raw variety (as in milk, fruit and vegetable juices, almonds)? This is an issue that promises to become ever more prominent if food irradiation, already approved by the FDA for meats and leafy green vegetables, spreads in popularity by food producers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t …

Bureaucratic Dogfight

Why it matters that the FDA is beating USDA for control of food system

Small-scale food producers and farmers have been vocal about their concerns that the Senate will pass highly burdensome food-safety legislation. Equally worried, but much less vocal, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It frets over major gains by its arch-rival, the U.S. food and Drug Administration, over local food producers and small farms. USDA is so worried it has even had its Senate allies include language that “prohibited the FDA from ‘impeding, minimizing, or affecting’ USDA authority on meat, poultry, and eggs,” according to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. The legislation, if it passes as …

Growing pains

Is raw milk becoming too popular for its own good?

Whatha’s looking it? As raw milk’s popularity grows, so does scrutiny. It’s been a tough twelve months for proponents of raw milk. Last April, as many as 81 Colorado consumers were sickened by campylobacter associated with raw milk. Last September, about 35 people became ill with campylobacter, apparently from milk from a Wisconsin dairy. And just in the last few weeks, 17 raw milk drinkers in the Midwest associated with a dairy in Indiana have become ill with campylobacter. Added to all that, Whole Foods last month notified producers in four states—California, Washington, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania—that it would no longer …

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