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?
From Caveman to Kitchen: The history of Food
These Toxic Times : Pesticides
The World Beneath Our Feet: Soil
Fear of Fish
Battling with Bugs: Antibiotics
The New Gene Genie: GM
The Counter Revolution: Organics
If I May Just Finish: Q&A
This is an extremely thorough and readable book that highlights so many relevant issues. The preface sets the scene. At the time the U.K. had been hit by the devastating foot and mouth epidemic resulting in the slaughter of millions of cattle in an attempt to contain the disease. Like BSE, it was the modern farming practices that had caused the problem (of the 170,000 cattle affected by BSE only a few came from organically / traditionally raised herds, and these had been brought into the herd from farms outside), and it lead the author to question whether the relentless drive for cheap food was a mistake. He asks what is the price we, our countryside and the factory farmed animal pay? Is it worth it? The rest of the book proceeds in a meticulous yet highly readable and informed way to cover off all the main concerns and risks in what we are doing and to suggest alternatives. John Humphreys is in no doubt that we need to stop and rethink the mindless drive to produce the cheapest food at all costs. I don't think that anyone who reads this book would question that.
Below are some reviews of the book (taken from the book):
'Compelling'. The Observer
Powerful .... A devastating indictment of what we are doing to our food'. Daily Mail
`Incisive and readable' The Times
`Without being sentimental, it's a passionate discourse ... well written and accessible. My only concern is that its message is likely to be ignored where it matters most' Independent
`Humphreys's level-headedness makes the argumenst all the more powerful' The Sunday Times