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

Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

Shrinking the Dead Zone, Reducing Fertilizer Use | Bill Wenzel

Last week, scientists predicted that this year’s hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be the 3rd largest since monitoring began 32 years ago. The “dead zone” will cover about 8,185 square miles — an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Slow and Steady Progress Getting Toxic Chemicals out of Soaps, Shampoos, and More | Dev Gowda

In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of progress. Consumers are at the forefront of making that happen, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to harness consumer preferences and push several companies to do better. Here’s what’s happened over the past year.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Men: The Lead in Your Hair Dye Could be Harming You | Kara Cook-Schultz

Lead acetate is a substance used since the Roman Empire added it as a sweetener to food and drinks. But today we don’t drink it — we know that lead acetate can cause serious health problems. Some health risks posed include lung irritation, abdominal pain, nausea, high lead levels in blood and urine, cancer, and even death in the most serious cases.

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

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

U.S. PIRG 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

Pages

News Release | Public Health

McDonald’s announces plan to cut overuse of antibiotics in chicken

McDonald’s announced a new policy today to curb the overuse of antibiotics in raising the chickens that ultimately become McNuggets or other McDonald’s products, within 2 years.

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

New Poll Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Doctors Concerned About Antibiotics Use on Healthy Food Animals

The overwhelming majority of doctors -- a total of 93 percent -- are concerned about the common meat industry practice of using antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention, according to a new poll released today commissioned by Consumer Reports and released by Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG.

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

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Executive Order on Protecting Antibiotics

Today, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order – Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. While the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

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

Consumer Groups Launch National Push for Supermarkets to Label GMOs

Consumers and health advocates launched a national campaign calling on local and regional supermarket chains to label their store-brand products for ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the one year anniversary of Whole Foods’ announcement that it will adopt labeling for all products in its stores.

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

Trouble in Toyland

 

Washington D.C.,  Nov. 26 –Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report.  The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

"Closer to Our Customers" | Steve Blackledge

Mr. Easterbrook, if you want to improve your relationship with customers - and stock values - trumpet your antibiotic-free commitment proudly.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Antibiotic-Free Chicken is the Next Big Thing | Anya Vanecek

More encouraging news this week. As people speak out against antibiotics overuse in agriculture, the industry is changing to meet our standards. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Blue Bell Recalls are a Public Health Wake-Up Call | Anya Vanecek

Blue Bell has just issued a total recall of its products while it resolves its recent Listeria outbreak. This is why we can't leave it to companies to inspect themselves--why we need the FDA.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Two Years After West Disaster, Are Our Communities Any Safer? | Anya Vanecek

Two years ago today (April 17th, 2013), a fertilizer plant explosion devastated West, Texas. Despite over 350 other preventable chemical accidents since, the EPA has failed to take action to protect our communities from future preventable chemical disasters.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Heavy Metals Don't Belong In Easter Eggs | Anya Vanecek

Toxic heavy metals don't belong in our chocolates, but a recent study finds that they could be there, anyway.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Henry Avocado Corporation is recalling avocados potentially contaminated with the deadly listeria bacteria. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG said in a statement: “We are barely getting a chance to breath between recalls."

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Just seven weeks after Tyson Foods recalled chicken nuggets that could contain rubber, the poultry giant is recalling chicken strips that might contain metal. 

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.

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. 

 
View AllRSS Feed

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