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, Food

Taco Bell Moves Away From Chicken Raised on Medically Important Antibiotics

Taco Bell will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017. The announcement was included in a release from Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands, and comes amid widespread consumer demand and concern from the medical community about the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Taco Bell’s announcement will put major market pressure on the meat industry to stop overusing antibiotics and should push its partner brands KFC and Pizza Hut to have stronger commitments as well. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Colonel-quality chicken | Anya Vanecek

Last week, KFC announced a "Re-Colonelzation" of its recipes and cooking techniques. But in their effort to improve quality, they missed an important ingredient: a commitment to help protect public health.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Louisville Courier Journal - KFC Should End Use of Antibiotics

KFC recently announced a “Re-Colonelization” of its food, but missed an important piece of the puzzle — it has not committed to serving meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics.

> 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
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Subway’s New Sandwich is Helping Save Antibiotics | Anya Vanecek

Subway just released its first sandwich made with meat raised without antibiotics. It was a delicious way to address one of the most pressing public health issues of our time.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Public Health

CBS News: Watchdog Warns of Toy Dangers as Holidays Near

Shoppers awaiting this week's traditional kick-off of the holiday shopping season should find plenty of safe toys for children, but consumer advocates say some dangers still lurk.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Food

Fox News: New Report Links Agricultural Subsidies to Childhood Obesity

A report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or U.S. PIRG, titled “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” found that between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. has spent more than $260 billion on agricultural subsidies.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

Representative Jeff Flake Introduces REAPS Act

Statement of U.S. PIRG Federal Legislative Office Director Gary Kalman on the introduction of the Reducing the Deficit through Eliminating Agriculture Direct Payment Subsidies Act.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Food

House Committee Approves Cut to Agriculture Subsidies

Every year, billions of taxpayer dollars are directed toward agribusiness -- artificially driving down the cost of fats and sugars by subsidizing commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, the prices of fruits and vegetables, grown with relatively little government support, have steadily increased by nearly 40% in the past 20 years.

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

House Committee Approves Flawed Chemical Security Legislation

Nearly ten years after the September 11 attacks, it is unacceptable that millions of Americans are still living under the threat of chemical disaster. The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly asked Congress for the authority to require the highest risk chemical plants to convert to safer alternatives to eliminate or reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack.  We are dismayed that the Committee’s vote today allows the threats to public safety and security posed by these facilities to persist.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

FDA’s BPA Ban: A Small, Late Step in the Right Direction

Last week the FDA announced a ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula packaging. The rule change should provide some comfort to parents — however, it also showcased the FDA’s sluggish pace of action, and demonstrates to states that they shouldn’t wait for federal action to move forward with public health rules on their own.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

European Trade Talks Threaten Our Health and Safety | Nasima Hossain

Talks on the European and U.S. trade agreement start this week and are being hailed by both sides as a way to strengthen their lagging economies. But for consumers, lowered trade barriers too often mean the crippling of vital public health and safety rules.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

Will U.S. trade deal with Europe threaten our safety and pocketbooks? | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 15 June 2013) U.S. officials have begun discussing a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe. The deal poses a serious threat to strong U.S food safety laws, new U.S. rules designed to prevent another bank-induced economic collapse and many other public protections. The threat will be lessened if the U.S. reverses its plan to conduct negotiations in the full view of some 600 industry "advisors" but secretly from the rest of us.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Meat Industry Admits: We Need Food Safety Inspectors | Nasima Hossain

We’ve already written about the impact that sequestration’s across-the-board cuts will have on food safety. Consumers are understandably troubled, and now it seems that even the meat industry is concerned enough about this problem to write to the President.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Dangers on Our Dinner Tables | Nasima Hossain

Sequestration is one of the hottest topics in D.C. right now, but one consequence that has been largely overlooked is the impact that these budget cuts would have on our dinner tables and our health.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

DEFEND THE CFPB

Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

Support Us

Your donation supports U.S. PIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code