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

Statement on P&G’s Consumer Product Fragrance Disclosure Announcement

U.S. PIRG applauds consumer product giant Procter & Gamble, the maker of brands like Olay, Old Spice, and Pampers, for its announcement today that it will increase fragrance ingredient transparency in all of its consumer brands.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health, Antibiotics

McDonald’s Changes Meat Supply Guidelines to Stem Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

In response to the health risks posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, McDonald’s has announced it is implementing new targets for cutting antibiotic use in the global chicken supply, and plans to expand its commitment to fewer antibiotics in pork and beef.

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

Our Statement on the Failure of the US Senate Health Care Bill

American consumers can breathe a sigh of relief today. The legislation that was narrowly defeated in the US Senate last night threatened to spark chaos in health insurance markets, raise costs, degrade quality of care, weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

States ban a common pesticide--and many farmers are happy about it | Kara Cook-Schultz

Arkansas and Missouri announced last week that they are temporarily banning a common agricultural chemical — and many farmers are happy about it.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Public Health

America’s Health Comes in Last Place in “America First” Budget

Today, President Trump released his first proposed budget to Congress. Here is a statement from Toxics Director Kara Cook-Schultz on the President’s budget proposal.

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

Monsanto Colluded to "Ghost-Write" Studies on the Pesticide Roundup

Newly-released emails written by executives at Monsanto Co. show that Monsanto employees ghostwrote articles for independent scientists.

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

VICTORY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: MONSANTO DEFEATED IN CALIFORNIA ROUNDUP CASE

A district court judge last week dismissed Monsanto’s lawsuit against the California Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the ruling, consumers will soon be informed of the health risks of Roundup and other products containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

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

New U.N. Report: We Can Feed The World Without Using Pesticides

A report released today by the United Nations finds that it is a “myth” that pesticides are needed to feed the world’s 7 billion people. Farmers can produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without the use of pesticides.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Statement on Unilever’s Decision to Disclose Fragrance Ingredients in Personal Care Products

U.S. PIRG applauds personal care product giant Unilever US, the maker of popular brands like Dove and Axe, for its announcement today that it will increase fragrance ingredient transparency in its personal care brands.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

Body of Evidence

New evidence indicates that the chemical flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca) may threaten the health of Americans. Unfortunately, the story of Deca is not unique. Deca is one of many potentially hazardous chemicals that are in widespread use, due to a failed national policy that presumes chemicals are safe until proven beyond a doubt to cause harm.

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

Weird Science

Genetic engineering is an imprecise and haphazard technology—something completely different from traditional plant breeding. Since the inception of the technology, biotechnology companies have clearly demonstrated that scientists cannot control where genes are inserted and cannot guarantee the resulting outcomes. Unexpected field results highlight the unpredictability of the science, yet combinations previously unimaginable are being field tested and used commercially.

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

Raising Risk 2003

There are many potential risks associated with the release of genetically engineered plants into the open environment. And if field experiments are not properly monitored, genetic pollution can result, putting farmers' livelihoods, public health and the environment at risk. Thus our environment is serving as the laboratory for widespread experimentation of genetically engineered organisms with profound risks that, once released, can never be recalled.

> Keep Reading
Report | VPIRG | Public Health

Hidden Hazards

Polymer clays are a form of modeling clay that have become popular in recent years among children, adolescents and adult craftspeople. Unfortunately, these clays contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) mixed with phthalate plasticizers. While the phthalate plasticizers make the clay soft and workable, they are also associated with potential health risks. Phthalates as a class of chemicals have been implicated in birth defects, reproductive problems, nerve system damage and other negative health effects.

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

Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes in Genetically Engineered Foods

Many genetically engineered crops on the market currently contain antibiotic resistance marker genes because of the imprecision of the gene insertion process. Scientists use these genes to determine whether a gene has inserted itself into a target organism. As a result of incorporating these antibiotic resistance genes, these crops threaten the already growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which the world medical community acknowledges as a serious public health concern.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Statement on President Obama Signing Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act from U.S. Public Interest Research Group Toxics Campaign Director Carli Jensen | Carli Jensen

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2576, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This bill, to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), passed the House and Senate earlier this year.

U.S. PIRG is disappointed with this law. It is one step forward, and two steps back for public health. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Grilling to protect public health | Anya Vanecek

With antibiotics, we can all enjoy the summer free from the worry that a stumble on the sidewalk or a minor burn from the grill could turn into a serious illness. So what could be a better centerpiece to the picnic table than meat raised without routine antibiotics?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

What’s that toxic smell? One Father Clashes with the Chemical Industry | Anna Low-Beer

The movie Stink! originated with one pair of children’s pajamas that Director John Whelan bought his daughters for Christmas in 2011. The new pajamas, when taken out of their plastic packaging, smelled overwhelmingly of chemicals. That one smell prompted Whelan to look deeper into fragrance and the chemical industry’s use of secret and often toxic chemicals in our everyday products. He simply wanted to know – what’s in the stuff we buy? “It seemed like a common-sense question to ask…I’m just trying to find out what chemicals they would put on kids’ pajamas,” he said. A common-sense question, yes. One with a simple answer? Not so much. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Food recall season off to a big start | Anya Vanecek

Once again, the shift from spring to summer has carried with it a string of contamination-related food recalls. Twenty in the last month -- and that number is climbing.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Statement on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Passage from U.S. Public Interest Research Group Toxics Campaign Director Carli Jensen | Carli Jensen

U.S. PIRG is disappointed with the TSCA bill that was passed today by the Senate and will soon be sent to the President.

The bill preempts state action to regulate a chemical while the EPA is merely assessing its safety – a years-long process that will leave us all at risk. The bill also preempts state laws after the E.P.A. has issued a final regulation, preventing states from enacting additional protections. When it comes to health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling.

> 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