Healthy Farms, Healthy Families

INVESTING IN SMART, HEALTHY FARMING — Most modern farms are far too reliant on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that can stay on our food or drain into and pollute our drinking water. It's time to implement low-chemical farming practices, and protect our health and environment.

If you are like most Americans, when you go grocery shopping, you’re probably focused on choosing healthy, tasty food for you and your family, at a good price. You might also be among the growing number of people who are buying organic, or just paying more attention to how your food is raised and grown. 

Unless you’re a farmer, you probably aren’t paying too much attention to the complex and, in many ways, miraculous agricultural system behind all that abundance and variety — a system that provides enough food to feed hundreds of millions of Americans, and many more around the world. 

But it’s also a system that has profound implications for our health and a huge impact on our environment. And if we don’t act soon to improve it, the decisions we make in the coming years could affect the food we eat and the water we drink for decades to come. 

OUR FARMS ARE TOO RELIANT ON CHEMICALS 

There is a growing body of evidence, including some research done by farmers and scientists at Iowa State University, that suggests we can dramatically reduce the use of some synthetic chemicals while still growing as much food as we do now — and maybe more.

Why is that such a big deal? Most modern farms have become far too reliant on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These chemicals can stay on our food or drain into and pollute our drinking water, and have been linked to all kinds of problems:

  • American farms used nearly 900 million pounds of pesticides in the most recent year for which we have data, and chief among them is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The chemicals in Roundup have been linked to cancer and other health problems, and are showing up in our food and water.
  • Chlorpyrifos is an insecticide used on many fruits and vegetables, which often remains on the produce when it’s bought at the grocery store. One EPA analysis estimates that almost 90 percent of women of childbearing age have traces of chlorpyrifos in them, and the insecticide has been shown to cause brain and developmental damage in children
  • Runoff from farming fields can find its way into our drinking water. Nitrate runoff can be especially harmful to infants, according to the EPA, and is linked to “blue baby syndrome” because the babies have difficulty transporting oxygen.

WE'RE SUBSIDIZING THIS CHEMICAL OVERUSE

Every year, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars on subsidies for insurance on crops like corn, wheat, and soybeans. These heavy subsidies incentivize farmers to plant the same crop year after year.

However, planting the same crops over and over again drains the soil of nutrients, and farmers must rely more and more on fertilizers to replenish the soil, and on pesticides to keep weeds, insects and more from flourishing, in order to ensure a successful harvest. This increased chemical use puts our food, our drinking water and the health of our families at risk.

But many farmers and researchers agree we can grow as much food as we do now, without relying so heavily on chemicals. In one study done over the course of 13 years at Iowa State University, farmers and researchers were able to reduce the use of herbicides by 88 percent by using diverse crop rotations. And those researchers believe there is a realistic possibility these systems could be expanded to a larger scale in order to “greatly reduce the need for fossil fuels, chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, without sacrificing yields or profitability.”  

These techniques aren’t borne out of some new, untested technology either. As an author of the study put it, “these were simple changes patterned after those used by North American farmers for generations. What we found was that if you don’t hold the natural forces back they are going to work for you.

WE HAVE THE TOOLS FOR HEALTHIER FARMS

Shouldn’t our tax dollars be invested in the best farming practices? Practices that not only grow all the food we need, but protect our health and the environment at the same time?  

Implementing these changes will be crucial to protecting our health and the safety of our food and drinking water. That’s why we’re building a wide coalition of concerned citizens, farmers, health professionals, and anyone who’s concerned about the health and safety of the food they feed their family or the water they drink. We’ll be in the cities that rely on the food we grow, and the farming communities that are most directly affected by the use of these chemicals. 

Together, we can spread the word so our decision makers know that people are paying attention, and that they want our policies to support healthy farms, and healthy families. 


Image credits, from top: Oticki/Shutterstock, MN Studios/ShutterstockChafer Machinery CC by 2.0

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Antibiotics

Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella outbreak comes from unknown source

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an outbreak of Salmonella from an unknown source, which has so far infected 92 people in 29 states. This strain, Salmonella Infantis, which can be fatal, is resistant to multiple antibiotic treatments. And antibiotic resistance, hastened by the routine overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms, makes treating dangerous foodborne disease outbreaks more difficult. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

6 million pounds of Salmonella-contaminated beef recalled

On Thursday, JBS Tolleson, Inc. announced it is recalling 6.9 million pounds of raw beef products as a result of Salmonella contamination. In the past month, this outbreak of Salmonella Newport has caused at least 57 illnesses in 16 states. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Faults Exemptions for Second Recall of Compounded Drug in 2018

After a second major recall of all sterile compounded drugs manufactured by an "outsourcing facility", U.S. PIRG calls on the Food and Drug Administration to close loopholes that exempt these operations from safe manufacturing requirements.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Honey Smacks still on shelves 2 months after salmonella recall

Some stores are still stocking Honey Smacks more than two months after a massive recall due to Salmonella contamination that now has poisoned 130 individuals in 36 states, according to  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The latest FDA update includes 30 more sick people from three previously unaffected states:  Delaware, Maine and Minnesota.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Faults Exemptions for Second Recall of Compounded Drug in 2018

After a second major recall of all sterile compounded drugs manufactured by an "outsourcing facility", U.S. PIRG calls on the Food and Drug Administration to close loopholes that exempt these operations from safe manufacturing requirements.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Honey Smacks still on shelves 2 months after salmonella recall

Some stores are still stocking Honey Smacks more than two months after a massive recall due to Salmonella contamination that now has poisoned 130 individuals in 36 states, according to  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The latest FDA update includes 30 more sick people from three previously unaffected states:  Delaware, Maine and Minnesota.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Health Care

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

U.S. PIRG statement on $289 million verdict against RoundUp

Today, a jury ruled against the chemical company Monsanto, awarding $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who said he got terminal cancer from Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Safe Shopping Guide for Back-to-School Supplies

Many parents and teachers shopping for their students’ 2018-19 school supplies look for a non-toxic “AP” certified label on the products, but many products don’t have that label, so it’s unclear if they’re safe or not. U.S. PIRG Education Fund is releasing a guide that warns consumers about some products that may be on store shelves or already in their homes.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Antibiotics: Yummy Yucky | Steve Blackledge

Two of the three Yum! Brand companies announced new antibiotics policies this week. One was a promising step to save antibiotics. The other was more "yucky."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Flint Pediatrician Gave a Voice to the Voiceless in Flint, Michigan | Anna Low-Beer

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the Flint pediatrician who led the charge in proving that Flint water was tainted by lead and was poisoning the community. Without her drive and dedication to the children of Flint, it is hard to say how long government officials might have left the public in the dark about the mounting crisis. In honor of Women’s History Month we’re recognizing Dr. Hanna-Attisha -- a doctor, mother, and activist -- who has relentlessly fought for the public interest. 

> Keep Reading
Video Blog | Public Health, Food

Who's next to help save antibiotics?

Doctors, farmers, restaurant owners, and hundreds of thousands of people like you are all placing the same order: meat raised without routine antibiotics. Many fast food chains have stepped up to help stop the overuse of antibiotics. The question is, who will be next?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

The Flint Water Crisis: What You Need to Know | Kara Cook-Schultz

With President Obama clearing the way for federal aid in Flint, Michigan last month, the water crisis is receiving immediate attention. The city was badly in need of a short-term fix, but what about the future of affected Flint citizens?

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | US PIRG

A state jury in Oakland decided that the use of Roundup by a California couple for residential landscaping over a 30 year period was a “substantial factor” that led to them developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund

In a major victory for California families,state officials announced this week they will prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide linked to permanent brain damage in young children.Gov. Newsom also announced funding to help farmers transition to safer alternatives. The process is expected to take from six months to two years.

 

With this decision, California becomes the third state to ban chlorpyrifos, following Hawaii and New York. This is also the first time the Golden State canceled the registration of a currently-used pesticide.

 

News Release | US PIRG

This week, U.S. PIRG submitted 17,000 petitions to the EPA in support of the life-saving Mercury Air Toxics standards (MATs rule), a rule that the EPA proposes to suspend.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that it suspects ground beef caused an outbreak of E. coli-induced infections that has sickened more than 100 people in six states.

News Release | US PIRG

A federal jury has ordered Monsanto to pay $81 million in damages after concluding that the company’s best-selling weed killer, Roundup, was a significant factor in plaintiff Edward Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.