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

Home remodeling shouldn’t be a deadly project: Toxic paint removers being sold by Lowe’s and other stores | Dev Gowda

No one should lose a loved one to deadly chemicals. But right now you can walk into Lowe’s and other stores and buy paint removers containing highly toxic chemicals.

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

Grieving parents & health advocates urge Lowe’s to pull deadly paint strippers from store shelves

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joins Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling paint strippers made with methylene chloride and the chemical NMP.

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

More Info On Our Testing Methodology for Asbestos in Makeup

Claire’s Stores Inc. incorrectly claims that our testing methods are unsound. Its accusations are misinformed at best, and seem to be designed to distract from the bottom-line: that Claire’s is selling makeup that contains asbestos to preteens.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

PIRG Consumer Watchdog: Asbestos Found In Children's Products | Dev Gowda

The PIRG Consumer Watchdog team recently found that three different products sold by national retail brand Claire’s contain alarming amounts of asbestos. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it “unacceptable” for cosmetic talc to be contaminated with asbestos, and doctors say that there is no safe limit of asbestos.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Target Removes Lead-Laden Fidget Spinners from Store Shelves

Today, Target announced that it will be removing two fidget spinner models that contain well over the legal limit of lead for children’s toys from its store shelves. Target had initially balked at our request to do so, citing a Consumer Product Safety Commission rule stating that general use products directed at adults don’t need to follow the same lead guidelines as children’s products directed at children 12 and under. These two models of fidget spinners, the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass and the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal, were labeled for ages 14 and up.

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

ARKANSAS STATE PLANT BOARD VOTES TO PROTECT FARMERS FROM DICAMBA DRIFT

The Arkansas State Plant Board voted today to ban the pesticide dicamba for the 2018 planting season. The decision was based on advice from a task force composed of scientists, farmers and other experts. Arkansas came to the decision after a year of record crop losses caused by dicamba — during 2017, the state received more pesticide complaints than it ever has in one year.

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

High Levels of Lead Found in Fidget Spinners

U.S. PIRG Education Fund found fidget spinners with high levels of lead for sale at Target stores across the country. Parents and consumers need to know about these lead-laden toys, especially because we alerted Target and the toy’s distributor, Bulls i Toy, to our findings, but they refused to address the problem. The toxic fidget spinners are still available both in toy aisles at Target stores and on its website. Incredibly, Target and Bulls i Toy defend their inaction by pointing to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) declaration that fidget spinners are NOT technically “children’s products” subject to legal limits for lead.

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

World Health Organization Urges Meat Industry To Cut Routine Antibiotic Use

The World Health Organization’s new guidelines on antibiotic use in the meat industry couldn’t come sooner. At least 2 million Americans become ill each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die. The guidelines make clear that the agriculture sector needs to stop using antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in healthy animals.

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

Report: Monsanto Suing Arkansas State Officials For Banning Use Of Dicamba Herbicide

Monsanto just announced Friday that they are suing Arkansas State Regulators for banning the use of the herbicide dicamba. U.S. PIRG Education Fund is in support of the Arkansas ban that would limit the use of this pesticide. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

Voters in Seven California Counties Consider Banning Genetically Engineered Agriculture

In March 2004, despite industry spending $700,000 in opposition, Mendocino County passed Measure H, which makes it unlawful to cultivate or raise any genetically engineered crops or animals. As a result of Mendocino County’s success, seven other counties in California are poised to make decisions to also prohibit genetically engineered agriculture this fall.

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

Dangerous Dozen

Across the United States, thousands of industrial facilities use and store hazardous chemicals in large quantities that pose major risks to their neighbors. More than 100 of these facilities would each put at least one million people at risk of injury or death in the event of a chemical accident or terrorist attack.

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

Irresponsible Care

This report analyzes accident data compiled by the National Response Center, the sole national point of contact for reporting oil and chemical discharges into the environment in the United States, for 1990 through 2003.

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

The Truth About Toxic Waste Cleanups

The Bush administration has failed to include reinstatement of the polluter pays fees in its budget proposals, and Superfund’s trust fund is now bankrupt. The Bush administration also has under-funded the program, cleaned up fewer toxic waste sites, and forced taxpayers to pick up more of the bill for the cleanups that are happening. In order to deflect criticism of the administration's record on toxic waste cleanups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided confusing, misleading, and even false information to the news media.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Lead: the sneaky ingredient in your lipstick and lotion | Anna Low-Beer

Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration announced new guidelines for the level of lead allowed in lipstick and other cosmetics. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t there already a rule that says that lead -- a toxic heavy metal -- is not permitted in the products we apply to our bodies? Sadly, because of weak and outdated federal regulations, the FDA does not currently limit lead levels in cosmetics. And it’s not a small problem -- the FDA tested hundreds of lipsticks from popular brands in 2012, and found lead in every single one.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

In the Bid to Save Antibiotics, Are Drug Companies Allies or Enablers? | Jeremy Flood

While many hospitals have begun developing antibiotic stewardship programs and adopting strict policies in clinical settings, the routine overuse of antibiotics in meat production continues to quietly thrive as a multi-billion dollar industry.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Toxic-Free Holiday Tips | Anna Low-Beer

The holidays are fast approaching, and we’ve got a few tips for you to ensure a safe and toxic-free gift-giving season. From children’s toys under the tree to cosmetic gift boxes for your colleagues and neighbors, check out our tips for a safe holiday season.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

EPA Proposes First Federal Toxic Chemical Ban in Decades to Close out 2016 | Anna Low-Beer

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency was granted increased authority to regulate chemicals on the market. Under an updated federal toxics law, the EPA must review 10 chemicals currently on the market for safety, and they’ve already gotten started. This week, after naming the first 10 chemicals it will review, the EPA proposed the first federal toxic chemical ban in 27 years. That’s a big deal.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

EPA Caves to the Agrichemical Industry Ahead of Glyphosate Hearings | Anna Low-Beer

Days before the Environmental Protection Agency was set to hold Scientific Advisory Panel meetings to review the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate – the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – the meetings were postponed. Why?

> Keep Reading

Pages

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