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5.0 out of 5 stars Read, weep and lose your apetite!
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...
Published on 4 Mar 2012 by Francisca

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well argued, shame about the polemics
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...
Published on 3 July 2001 by johnppotts@excite.co.uk


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well argued, shame about the polemics, 3 July 2001
This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Scary book, 25 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (Paperback)
If you want the truth, read on. I found it to be very informative and has helped me to make buying decisions, which everyone should know about.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Second copy: gave the first one away it was so good., 18 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (Paperback)
Much misunderstood, and maligned, for his approach to interviews in the mornings - or so i recall - but Mr Humphrys is a better writer than most people realise: it's not about research, it's about informed opinion and being able to narrate a tale worth telling.

You'll never look at salmon the same way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Should be essential reading, 8 July 2013
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This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (Paperback)
This is a book which everyone who is interested in food production, whether a consumer or producer, should read. Althougth it was published 10 years ago the points are relevent to today.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read, weep and lose your apetite!, 4 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (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!). But we can't forget that this book was published in 2002 (a pity the author never thought of writing an update...). He also says that apricots can't be sold unless they contain sulphur dioxide but in the meanwhile there are unsulphured apricots in the shops. In the meanwhile food is not that cheap anymore either! The concept that we live longer than we ever lived is one that seems to be quite debatable and at the end the author says that the new generation is the first one that will die before their parents! The older generation is living longer, whether we will, remains to be seen! Lots of young people, even babies, are dying of the most horrendous illnesses. He also says that nobody suggests that women should stop breastfeeding but with the terrible pollution we are surrounded by and all the chemicals in our food I think babies would be better off with formula that most resembled mother milk without all the dangers of it! He says that Alzheimer's is now found in people as young as 30 but in the meanwhile it is even found in children! I don't think people still smoke in the workplace but whether before we could refuse to share the office with someone who did.... I doubt it! Nowadays there are experts who doubt that vaccines are as useful as the author thinks they are. Are vaccines really as life-saving as he says they are? I am starting to doubt it! As far as doctors not being allowed to sell drugs in Britain, that is a great thing! Here in Switzerland they are and you see them trying to sell you as many drugs as they can get away with! I find it very worrying! Sometimes if feels as if they are selling candy to a child! As far as GM seeds go I know too little about the matter to comment but I would think that if farmers have their own conventional seeds they should be able to use them? Why is it that all of a sudden they find themselves with no seeds at all, other than the GM seeds they have to buy every year? Certainly other seeds must still exist or am I being too nave? I am always amazed at how centuries of agriculture all of a sudden become "organic" and the chemical stuff of the past 50 years or so became "conventional". The same applies to medicine... the old type, centuries old, is "alternative", the new one is "conventional". Puzzling....

If you want to go on eating farming salmon (the only kind now sold in many countries) skip that chapter because after you read it no way you will touch this poor fish again. But then.... A British newspaper has just published an article about a new illness attacking fish in over fished areas: a predator that eats fishes tongues and then settles where the tongue used to be! I think that I will skip eating fish for the rest of my life!

As I was about to write this review I came across an article in a British newspaper about how commonly used cosmetics are full of toxins.... It really makes one wonder what kind of world we live in! I have to say that I came across this book by chance while looking for something else but I am glad I did, this is one of the best books I have ever read and let's hope John Humphrys will update it very soon!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books written in the last 10 years, 3 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (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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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, good balance between fact and opinion, 15 Nov 2001
This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (Paperback)
Clearly written from the heart.
Most of us by now are either extremely concerned about the food we are eating or wearing blinkers and earplugs to shut out the facts.
John Humphreys expands on our fears about the food we eat. If you would rather not know about the damage to yourself and your family and the environment by over use of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, anti-biotics, to name but a few, this book is not for you.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Adresses REAL Issues, 6 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (Paperback)
This book addresses all the thing that are going wrong with our food in this, the 21st century. The book addresses, among other thing, Foot and Mouth, BSE and Intensive Farming. No doubt, Radio 4 listeners will not be surprised by Johns matter-of-factly explanations and writing.
An Excellent Book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Recommended., 18 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Great Food Gamble (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.

Preface
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
Bibliography
Index

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
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love a good book., 15 Feb 2013
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A brilliant read. I love a good book. There is nothing better than emersing yourself in a really good read.
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The Great Food Gamble by John Humphrys (Paperback - 3 Jan 2002)
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