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

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

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

> Keep Reading

ARKANSAS STATE PLANT BOARD VOTES TO PROTECT FARMERS FROM DICAMBA DRIFT

Yesterday, the Arkansas State Plant Board unanimously voted 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  than it ever has in one year.

> Keep Reading

Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

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

Report: EPA Considering Limiting Dicamba Herbicide, as More Farmers Report Crop Damage

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allegedly suggested on a phone call that the agency is considering limiting the spraying of the dicamba herbicide. U.S. PIRG is in support of any EPA policy proposal that would limit or ban the use of this pesticide.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

Statement from U.S. PIRG Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

> Keep Reading

Pages

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
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

U.S. PIRG Tells EPA: DON’T PUT THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY BEFORE PUBLIC HEALTH

The Trump-Pruitt EPA's watering down of toxic substance regulations puts public health at risk.

> 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
News Release | Public Health, Antibiotics

Maryland’s Keep Antibiotics Effective Act Goes Into Law without Governor’s Signature

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act has gone into law without a signature from Governor Larry Hogan, making Maryland the second state in the country after California to meaningfully address the widespread misuse of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. The new law will prohibit the routine use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick, a practice public health experts say can fuel the spread of drug resistant bacteria.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Statement on SC Johnson’s skin allergen disclosure announcement

“SC Johnson, the manufacturer behind popular brands like Glade, Pledge, Windex, and more has announced today that it will disclose the presence of 368 fragrance and non-fragrance potential skin allergens that may occur in its products. This is a great move for chemical transparency in consumer products."

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

Undisclosed Pollution

Since 1987, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program has been the nation’s premiere pollution disclosure program. By requiring companies to disclose the pollution they release to our air, water, and land, transfer off site, or dispose in a waste dump, the TRI program has ensured the public’s right-to-know about toxic pollution in communities. The TRI program is under attack. The Bush Administration has issued a series of proposed changes over the past few years, some of which would weaken the program by reducing the amount or quality of information available to the public.

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

The Right Start

A child’s first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope, if for nothing else, that their child starts his or her life happy and healthy. Unfortunately, not all products marketed for children and babies are completely safe for their use. Many contain toxic chemicals that may have detrimental health impacts for children exposed during critical stages of development.

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

Looking Forward After Katrina

We have developed a quick snapshot of some of the environmental health problems in the wake of the hurricane, as well as recommendations for governmental officials to take into account as they move forward.

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

Needless Risk

Across the country, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that, if subject to an accident or attack, would release dangerous toxins.  Such releases could injure or kill thousands of people that live in communities in close proximity to these facilities. Petroleum refineries stand as a stark example of the unnecessary risk posed by such facilities in the event of an attack or accident as well as the opportunity to mitigate this risk by using safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

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

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News 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
News 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
News Post | Public Health

Darden Misses Opportunity to Show Leadership, Instead Hangs with the Laggards | Matt Wellington

Yesterday I was in Orlando, Florida to present a shareholder resolution on antibiotics to Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, Yard House and LongHorn Steakhouse, among other casual dining chains. I presented the resolution on behalf of  Equity Fund and its investors. Darden corporate management was vehemently  to the resolution, which simply called for its chains to serve meat from farms that do not misuse antibiotics by routinely given them to livestock and poultry, even when the animals are not sick. It sounds like a no-brainer, and it should be.

> Keep Reading
News Post | Public Health

Calling for Big Action on Antibiotics in the Big Apple | Steve Blackledge

Last week, we were in New York City, where the United Nations General Assembly spent an entire day discussing antibiotic resistance, “the biggest threat to modern medicine.” Experts estimate that more than 700,000 people worldwide die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, including 23,000 in the United States—a number that could  globally by 2050.

> Keep Reading
News Post | Public Health

Petition: FDA Needs To Act On Antibiotics | Steve Blackledge

Today we joined NRDC  to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, challenging the agency to do what the law requires of it — protect the health of Americans from the misuse of antibiotics. 

> 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