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, 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
Blog Post | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Administration Plan to Protect Antibiotics | Sujatha Jahagirdar

Today, the National Task Force for Combatting Resistant Bacteria released a five-year action plan to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.  While the plan will take several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it will miss the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Sounding Off to Congress | Anya Vanecek

Help us let our elected officials know we're serious about the need for stronger rules limiting the use of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. 

> Keep Reading
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
Blog Post | Public Health

Tweet to #SaveABX | Anya Vanecek

We hosted a Tweetchat - a live discussion over Twitter - with some of the top advocates, officials, and businesses helping to save antibiotics. Our discussion ranged from the problems with drug resistance to both market and political solutions. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its new Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States report, which estimates at least 35,000 Americans die annually from infections that antibiotics can no longer effectively treat.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit today to challenge a U.S. Department of Energy rule rolling back light bulb efficiency standards.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The Chain Reaction V report grades the top fast food and fast casual chanins on antibiotic use policies for their beef supply chains. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The fifth annual Chain Reaction report grades the top fast food and fast casual chains on antibiotic use in their beef supply chains. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The major e-cigarette company Juul plans to stop selling fruity flavored products, but will leave mint and menthol flavored pods on the market, according to recent news. The announcement comes in anticipation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s intended move to clear the market of all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes. U.S. PIRG's Matt Wellington says Juul's announcement is too little, too late.

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Get the lead out

The kids are back at school. How do we make sure their water is safe to drink?

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

Rather than require warning labels for Roundup, the Trump administration is moving to prohibit them.

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

This could be great, but what about e-cigarettes and vaping?

As federal officials consider bold action to warn the public about the health risks of cigarette smoking, we're highlighting that it’s also time for the FDA to take similarly bold action to address the youth vaping epidemic.

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

Rather than require warning labels for Roundup, the Trump administration is moving to prohibit them.

 
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