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 | TexPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

​Confirmed Release of Toxic Waste in Houston Area Following Harvey

In Texas, EPA officials confirmed that floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey have spread contamination from toxic waste sites known as “Superfund sites” to nearby areas. The EPA says thirteen Superfund sites were flooded and two of the worst sites released damaging chemicals into the water. Despite environmental and community groups asking the EPA for weeks to tell residents whether these sites were damaged, the EPA only released information on the latest contamination yesterday.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

U.S. PIRG Education Fund applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

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

More Than Half of Top 25 Restaurant Chains Commit to Responsible Antibiotics Use in Chicken, But Progress on Beef and Pork Still Lags

More than half of the top 25 chain restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, according to a new scorecard released today by a group of consumer, environmental and public health organizations. The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades the companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 restaurants have taken action, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

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

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

> Keep Reading

ARKANSAS STATE PLANT BOARD VOTES TO PROTECT FARMERS FROM DICAMBA DRIFT

Yesterday, the Arkansas State Plant Board unanimously voted to ban the pesticide dicamba for the 2018 planting season. The decision was based on advice from a task force composed of scientists, farmers, and other experts. Arkansas came to the decision after a year of record crop losses caused by dicamba—during 2017, the state received more pesticide complaints than it ever has in one year.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

CALIFORNIA NAMES THE MOST COMMON U.S. WEED-KILLER A CARCINOGEN. HOW CAN YOUR COMMUNITY MAINTAIN BEAUTIFUL, SAFE SPACES WITHOUT ROUNDUP?

Report details how 10 cities across the United States have made their parks, sports fields and school playgrounds safer, while still killing weeds, without glyphosate.

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

U.S. PIRG Tells EPA: Chlorpyrifos is Deadly and Must Be Banned

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joined a coalition of seven states and community, farmworker and environmental health groups in demanding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt ban the use of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Statement on SC Johnson’s skin allergen disclosure announcement

“SC Johnson, the manufacturer behind popular brands like Glade, Pledge, Windex, and more has announced today that it will disclose the presence of 368 fragrance and non-fragrance potential skin allergens that may occur in its products. This is a great move for chemical transparency in consumer products."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health, Antibiotics

Statement on McDonald's shareholder resolution to eliminate the routine use of medically important antibiotics from the company’s meat supply chain

At McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting today shareholders voted on a proposal to eliminate the routine use of medically important antibiotics from the company’s entire meat supply chain. Of those that voted, nearly 30% were in favor of the resolution.

> Keep Reading

L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

Today, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP)), and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on the multinational cosmetic giant L’Oréal USA to eliminate cancer causing chemicals and to disclose its secret “fragrance” chemicals. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Fast-casual ways to go antibiotic-free | Anya Vanecek

We're calling on Subway to join its peers in helping protect public health by serving meat raised without antibiotics. Who are these peers? Well, we've rounded them up for you.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

No More Naps In Nap Nanny Please | Nasima Hossain

On December 5th, the Consumer Product Safety Commission filed a lawsuit against Baby Matters, LLC, of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, - the manufacturer of Nap Nanny infant recliners.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Trouble In Toyland | Nasima Hossain

It’s a holiday morning and kids all over the world are waking up to open their presents. Big smiles and laughter abound. What could be wrong with this picture?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Poultry Industry And USDA Wants to Put Dangerous Chicken on Your Plates | Nasima Hossain

The new USDA proposed poultry inspection rule is being hailed as a common sense, cost-saving rule by OIRA and the poultry industry. It will purportedly streamline antiquated poultry inspection requirements, allowing companies to choose a more flexible approach, with five-year savings apparently in excess of $1 billion.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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.