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 , 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 , 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 , and chief among them is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The chemicals in Roundup have been linked to and other health problems, and are showing up in our .
  • Chlorpyrifos is an insecticide used on many fruits and vegetables, which on the produce when it’s bought at the grocery store. that almost 90 percent of women of childbearing age have traces of chlorpyrifos in them, and the insecticide has been shown to cause . 
  • Runoff from farming fields can find its way into our drinking water. Nitrate runoff can be especially harmful to infants, according to , 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 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 , 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 , “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: , , 

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

New Report: Reaping What We Sow: How the Practices of Industrial Agriculture Put Our Health and Environment at Risk

 

U.S. agriculture is at a crossroads. While the nation’s agricultural system now produces more food than we can consume or than is good for us, we are squandering our resources, technology and taxpayer-funded investments on farming systems and practices that prioritize higher yields and profitability without regard to the impacts on the environment and public health, or to long-term agricultural productivity.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Reaping What We Sow

Shaped by modern technologies, financial influences and public policy, American agriculture has evolved into an efficient system that produces all the food the country needs and more. However, in addition to the benefits that our food system offers, the shift to larger and more specialized farms has damaged public health and the environment. This damage is avoidable. Now is the time to reform agricultural practices to better protect public health, the environment, and our future ability to grow food.

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News Post | Public Health

Carcinogens in our kids’ soccer fields? A local mom’s take | Dev Gowda

Leslie Billings, a Chicago mom, has been taking an active role in her community about the dangers of carcinogens in soccer fields’ artificial turf. CBS Chicago featuring Leslie about parents investigating the safety of using tire materials in their kids' fields. Kids should be playing in safe and healthy environments, and parents shouldn’t have to worry about chemicals in the turf when they drop their kids off at soccer practice. Below is a snippet provided to me by Leslie:

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News Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

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We shouldn’t be raising food in ways that put tens of thousands of people’s lives at risk — that’s why we’re getting commitments from major restaurant chains to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Antibiotics, Food

New Campaign Calls On McDonald’s To Hold The Antibiotics From Their Meat Supply Chain

The consumer and public health advocacy organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund is calling on McDonald’s to commit to a concrete timeline to phase out the routine use of medically important antibiotics in its beef and pork supply chains.

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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.

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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. 

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

Report: EPA Limiting Use Of Dicamba Herbicide As More Farmers Report Crop Damage

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just  today that they will be limiting the use of the herbicide dicamba. U.S. PIRG Education Fund is in support of any EPA policy proposal that would limit or ban the use of this pesticide.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

TexPIRG Relieved That EPA Will Finally Secure Dangerous Superfund Site

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan today to finally clean up the toxic Superfund site known as the San Jacinto Waste Pits. The EPA’s decision comes after Hurricane Harvey flooded the site in August, releasing an unknown amount of contaminated soil into nearby floodwaters.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

​Confirmed Release of Toxic Waste in Houston Area Following Harvey

In Texas, EPA officials confirmed that floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey have spread contamination from toxic waste sites known as “Superfund sites” to nearby areas. The EPA says thirteen Superfund sites were flooded and two of the worst sites released damaging chemicals into the water. Despite environmental and community groups asking the EPA for weeks to tell residents whether these sites were damaged, the EPA only released information on the latest contamination yesterday.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Recipe for Disaster

To assess one cost of that delay, Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group studied recalls of foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from August 1, 2009, to the present.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Chemical Insecurity

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 release.

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

No Silver Lining

This report provides new data about the amount of BPA that could be consumed from eating canned food and drinks available in the U.S. and Canada. For No Silver Lining, we tested the food and beverage contents of 50 cans collected from 19 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. The report reveals that BPA is a routine contaminant in canned foods. Our study details potential exposure to BPA from not just one can, but from meals prepared with canned food and drink that an ordinary North American person might consume over the course of a day.

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

Trouble in Toyland

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report is the 24th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Green Century Capital Management | Public Health

Seeking Safer Packaging

Seeking Safer Packaging - a project of Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) and As You Sow - sent letters to 20 companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions the companies are taking to address concerns regarding BPA. Fourteen companies replied. Seeking Safer Packaging grades those companies based entirely on their responses to these letters.

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News 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.

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News 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.

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News 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.

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News Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Court rules that people should be protected from untested pesticides | Kara Cook-Schultz

A groundbreaking court victory came out yesterday: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an important pesticide law and that pesticides can’t be sold until they’re tested for safety. 

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News Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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