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 | US PIRG | Public Health

New Report: More than two-thirds of states examined receive failing grades for efforts to reduce lead in school drinking water

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Federal jury rules Monsanto’s Roundup was a significant factor in man’s cancer

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News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Co-Sponsors Bill That Would Ban Many Dangerous Cosmetics

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News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

Environment America and U.S. PIRG experts testify on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

The EPA is proposing rollbacks to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, even though most industrial plants have already adopted the necessary technology under the regulation--meaning that even industry wants to keep the rule. This shift would also change how the agency uses cost benefit analysis. Advocates from U.S. PIRG and Environment America testified in opposition to the proposal.

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News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

Miami Bans Glyphosate, Main Active Ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup

The city of Miami passed a resolution banning the use of glyphosate herbicide on city property. Beginning immediately, the city will no longer allow the use of glyphosate, an herbicide brought to the market by Monsanto under the name Roundup. Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and potential pollutant.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

New Report: More than two-thirds of states examined receive failing grades for efforts to reduce lead in school drinking water

A total of 22 states earned an “F” grade for their performance in eliminating lead from school drinking water, according to a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Of the 31 states tested, Illinois was the only one (along with the District of Columbia) to receive a mark above the C range.  These results come from the the second edition of the groups’ Get the Lead Out report, which grades state policies for protecting kids from exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Public Health, Food

Federal jury rules Monsanto’s Roundup was a significant factor in man’s cancer

A federal jury in San Francisco today found that Monsanto’s best-selling weed killer, Roundup, was a significant factor in plaintiff Edward Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Co-Sponsors Bill That Would Ban Many Dangerous Cosmetics

Landmark legislation introduced today would impose a statewide ban on cosmetics that include any of 20 highly toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or hormone disruption. Assembly Bill 495, authored by Assembly members Al Muratsuchi (Torrance) and Buffy Wicks (Oakland), halts the sale of cosmetics products containing toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan and the fluorinated compounds known as PFAS in California. The legislation is sponsored by CALPIRG and Environmental Working Group.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

Environment America and U.S. PIRG experts testify on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

The EPA is proposing rollbacks to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, even though most industrial plants have already adopted the necessary technology under the regulation--meaning that even industry wants to keep the rule. This shift would also change how the agency uses cost benefit analysis. Advocates from U.S. PIRG and Environment America testified in opposition to the proposal.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

Miami Bans Glyphosate, Main Active Ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup

The city of Miami passed a resolution banning the use of glyphosate herbicide on city property. Beginning immediately, the city will no longer allow the use of glyphosate, an herbicide brought to the market by Monsanto under the name Roundup. Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and potential pollutant.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Result | Public Health

Convincing McDonald’s and Subway to protect public health

In 2015, bolstered by the support of more than 100,000 members and supporters, we convinced both McDonald’s and Subway to take action to protect public health. In March, just two days after we delivered more than 30,000 petitions to McDonald’s headquarters, the company announced that they would stop serving chicken raised on medically-important antibiotics. And in October, after more than 100,000 called on the chain to take action, Subway announced a similar policy for all the meat they serve.

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Result | Public Health

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Result | Public Health

KIDS’ SCHOOL LUNCHES NOW SAFER

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Glyphosate In Beer and Wine

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Accidents Waiting to Happen

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide

With this Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide, parents, teachers, and students can make more informed decisions while shopping for school supplies this Back to School season. We want to give parents and teachers the option to choose school supplies that do not contain toxic chemicals. This Shopping Guide should serve as a handy tool for finding products free of several types of toxic chemicals.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Accidents Waiting to Happen: Coal Ash Ponds Put Our Waterways at Risk

Clean water is essential to America’s health and welfare. Our lakes, rivers, streams and creeks provide us with water to drink, add character to our most beautiful natural places, and give us places to fish and swim. Unfortunately, our waterways are under constant threat of pollution from dangerous facilities located along their banks. These facilities are accidents waiting to happen.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. U.S. PIRG Education Fund (PIRG) decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

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Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Study finds weed killer in beer and wine

The last thing you want to think about when you pour yourself a glass of wine or a cold beer is whether it contains even small levels of a potentially carcinogenic weed killer.

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Blog Post | Public Health

EPA's PFAS Indecision Hurts Military Families | Kara Cook-Schultz

EPA's national plan to address public health risks caused by PFAS chemicals fell far short of the actions that EPA has promised to take to protect public health, exacerbating a crisis occurring on military bases around the country.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Home Depot misses deadline to get toxic paint strippers off store shelves

Dozens of people have died. Yet in January, Home Depot was still selling the products that led to their deaths.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

How safe is our food? Not safe enough, says PIRG Consumer Watchdog team, and it's trending in the wrong direction

Unsafe food recalls in the U.S. are trending the wrong way. From 2013 to 2017, they rose 10 percent overall, and a whopping 83 percent for the most hazardous meat and poultry recalls.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Study finds weed killer in beer and wine

The last thing you want to think about when you pour yourself a glass of wine or a cold beer is whether it contains even small levels of a potentially carcinogenic weed killer.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Home Depot misses deadline to get toxic paint strippers off store shelves

Dozens of people have died. Yet in January, Home Depot was still selling the products that led to their deaths.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

How safe is our food? Not safe enough, says PIRG Consumer Watchdog team, and it's trending in the wrong direction

Unsafe food recalls in the U.S. are trending the wrong way. From 2013 to 2017, they rose 10 percent overall, and a whopping 83 percent for the most hazardous meat and poultry recalls.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Which stores make the grade for getting toxic chemicals off the shelves?

Out of the 40 largest retailers in North America, 19 lack any public policy to address toxic chemicals in the products found on their shelves.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG

A total of 22 states earned an “F” grade for their performance in eliminating lead from school drinking water, according to a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Of the 31 states tested, Illinois was the only one (along with the District of Columbia) to receive a mark above the C range.  These results come from the the second edition of the groups’ Get the Lead Out report, which grades state policies for protecting kids from exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin.

News Release | US PIRG

A federal jury in San Francisco today found that Monsanto’s best-selling weed killer, Roundup, was a significant factor in plaintiff Edward Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

News Release | CALPIRG

Landmark legislation introduced today would impose a statewide ban on cosmetics that include any of 20 highly toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or hormone disruption. Assembly Bill 495, authored by Assembly members Al Muratsuchi (Torrance) and Buffy Wicks (Oakland), halts the sale of cosmetics products containing toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan and the fluorinated compounds known as PFAS in California. The legislation is sponsored by CALPIRG and Environmental Working Group.

News Release | US PIRG

The EPA is proposing rollbacks to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, even though most industrial plants have already adopted the necessary technology under the regulation--meaning that even industry wants to keep the rule. This shift would also change how the agency uses cost benefit analysis. Advocates from U.S. PIRG and Environment America testified in opposition to the proposal.

News Release | US PIRG

The city of Miami passed a resolution banning the use of glyphosate herbicide on city property. Beginning immediately, the city will no longer allow the use of glyphosate, an herbicide brought to the market by Monsanto under the name Roundup. Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and potential pollutant.

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Glyphosate in beer and wine

Research shows that beer and wine are contaminated with glyphosate, the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup.

 

Public Health

How safe is our food?

Our latest report examines recent food safety trends, case studies of national recalls, what they mean for our health, and what we should do about it. 

 
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