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The Great Food Gamble Paperback – 3 Jan 2002

19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; New Ed edition (3 Jan. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340770465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340770467
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.1 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 605,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Humphrys has reported from all over the world for the BBC and presented its frontline news programmes on both radio and television, in a broadcasting career spanning forty years. He has won a string of national awards and been described as a 'national treasure'. He owned a dairy farm for ten years and has homes in Greece and London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

John Humphrys, broadcaster, writer, farmer and consumer, has written The Great Food Gamble to address the serious questions he and many of his audience have about the food on our tables in the wake of BSE, foot and mouth, and concerns about the effects of factory farming practices on the nation's health and environment. Humphrys knowledgeably traces such intensive agricultural practices to British food policy from the end of the Second World War to ask whether the relentless drive for more and more food has been a mistake and whether the risks we run are worth it to have what may ultimately prove to be an illusion of choice. Are there really no alternatives, he asks? As readers of Devil's Advocate and listeners to Radio 4's Today programme will no doubt expect, Humphrys has a no-nonsense approach. He has little time or patience with mealy-mouthed politicking. Industrial practices, backed up by political will, is costing our health and our environment too dear, he argues. He counts the cost of intensive factory farming, not only in terms of the destruction of our rural heritage, long-term environmental effects and mounting health concerns about the use of antibiotics and pesticides, but the hard cash cost of subsidies and cleaning up pollution that put the lie to the food industry's claim of providing "cheap" food. Humphrys adds his voice to the great food industry debate along with George Monbiot's critique of the supermarket's control of food production in Captive State and Eric Schlosser's stomach-churning analysis of our unfortunate infatuation with fast food in Fast Food Nation. Humphrys' prose is unashamedly popular: evocative and even nostalgic for a fast disappearing experience of the British countryside, even as he stops short of being romantic. If this means that he substitutes rhetoric for detail, he remains bang on target and knows that to engage people in this debate and connect it effectively to their lives is the most effective way to counter the enormous power wielded by the other side. A bitter harvest indeed. --Fiona Buckland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Thought-provoking, well-researched (Fordyce Maxwell, Scotsman)

Compelling (Observer)

Incisive and readable (Mick Hume, The Times)

Humphrys's level-headedness makes the arguments all the more powerful (Paul Heiney, The Sunday Times)

This could be the best diet book ever written (The Sunday Times)

Without being sentimental, it is a passionate discourse... well-written and accessible. My only concern is that its message is likely to be ignored where it matters most. (Tim Lang, Independent)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Francisca on 4 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
The Great food gamble is a truly great book, very well written, easy to read and although mostly about the reality in the UK, worth reading for people from all over the world! This is a book about how the world is being destroyed. John Humphrys writes about modern day agriculture, comparing it to how it used to be, talks about the food we eat and all the problems it brings us, how the soils are completely depleted, the horror of farmed fish and battery chickens, the dangers of abuse of antibiotics by people and antibiotics given to animals that put our lives in danger and GM food. At the end he answers quite a few questions in the form of an interview, a really very interesting chapter! This is a very well researched book that should be read by everybody. It should be read by the children in school because nowadays they are so often bombarded with useless information and finish missing out on what is really important!

I do have a few question marks! The first one is the idea that the public has a choice in the kind of food sold to us. It is true that we now have organic food but too little and too expensive. As far as other products we don't seem to have much choice, especially because many times we don't even have any idea about what is in our food! The average person is far too busy to be looking into it in detail and ends up buying whatever is on offer! Should we have been more demanding? Maybe! Maybe we put too much trust into the people who were supposed to be looking after our interests!

The idea that salt is the source of cardio-vascular disease doesn't seem to be true, as isn't high blood pressure (many people who have a heart attack have average or low blood pressure!).
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By on 3 July 2001
Format: Paperback
There have been plenty of issues that make people concerned over food in the last few years - Salmonella in eggs, BSE in cattle and the introduction of GM foods. John Humphrys gives a brief overview of how farming has changed since the Second World War from a small scale, largely family run business to a (mostly) intensive factory business, and how this has led to our food being increasingly adulterated with fertilisers, pesticides, hormones and anti-biotics.
Now while there is plenty to get worried about in all this, and John Humphrys does present the risks well, I would have found it a lot more convincing if he hadn't given the impression that he'd really prefer it if farmers were non profit making, horny handed sons of the soil and that any sniff of profit should be ruthlessly eliminated. In this book, there are clear "goodies" and "baddies" - the goodies being the small organic farmers, the "baddies" being the EU, large pharmaceutical companies, supermarkets and the "barley barons" (a group he neither defines nor interviews).
Now there is plenty of well argued science in here. The Chapter on the history of pesticides, and how new pesticides have been introduced as their predecessors have been banned, is enough to make anyone worry and the description of how the increasing monoculture throughout Britain's arable land is allowing the spread of crop diseases (which leads, in turn, to more spraying) is well argued, as is the Chapter on GM, which is surprisingly neutral (if erring on the side of scepticism) on the subject.
Overall a good guide to the farming is practiced throughout Britain today, and if you don't mind the polemics against big business (agricultural, pharmaceutical or retail) it presents a coherent arguement about the quality of our food.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
If you don't read any other book about the food industry, read this one! What John Humphrys has tried to do is assimilate into one very readable (indeed, unputdownable) book the research produced by many, many different people, ranging from eminent scientists across the world, to journalists, farmers and others involved in the food industry. He is careful to show precisely where research is inconclusive, and where there is more than one side to the arguments, and he concentrates as much on the impact of Government ministries and the large biotech and food manufacturing companies as he does on farming itself. This is not just a one-sided 'slagging-off' of farmers but a very fair appraisal of what has happened in the last 50 years and what might happen in the next 50 years if nothing changes.
There are chapters on why farming moved into such an intensive phase in the first place (during and after the war when fears of food blockades and starvation were very real), on chicken farming, fish farming, the effects of current farming practices on the soil, antibiotics, genetic modification, and the impact of consumer choice on the rapid rise in interest in organic food. There are many pages of bibliographical references at the end for those who want to research further.
Buy this book, read it, and give it to your friends. It will open your eyes and give you 'food for thought' for many months to come.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By NPF on 18 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
Published way back in 2001, this book makes for sad reading. All the issues raised in this book today continue apace. We as a people are neither learning or heeding the warning signs as we travel blindly along the road to destruction.

This is an extremely well written and researched book that looks at all aspects of how we today decide to produce our food and the consequences that result. It all starts with WWII and the desperate need for the UK to produce as much food as possible to avoid starvation following the threat of the German U2 submarines cutting the essential North Atlantic food supply chain from America. The mentality to maximize food production at all costs, coupled with advances in technology and the formation of powerful vested interests, ends up with the UK rapidly and radically discarding all the farming wisdom accrued over the previous centuries. We become a nation of chemical farmers. How, and the extent of this change is well covered here. For more reading on this Graham Harvey's book The Killing Of The Countryside makes for a good complimentary read. This book by John Humphreys book though covers a far wider canvas asking why the food we now eat has become a source of threat and concern rather than a pleasure. It outlines those threats to both environment, animal and human health. Below is a summary of contents.

Driven by Need
Yesterday, Today ... and Tomorrow?
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