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 | Public Health

U.S. judge allows Monsanto’s Roundup cancer lawsuit to go to trial, victims will be heard in court

Federal judge found sufficient evidence to move to trial hundreds of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto Co.’s glyphosate-containing weed-killer Roundup causes cancer.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Johnson & Johnson commits to disclose fragrance ingredients in baby products by August 1

J&J  it intends to disclose 100 percent of the ingredients in its babycare products next month.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

U.S. PIRG statement on the resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

President Donald Trump announced today via Twitter that he has accepted the resignation of embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. In response, Kara Cook-Schultz, the director of U.S. PIRG’s toxics program, released this statement:

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Senate Passes Bipartisan Farm Bill Free of Anti-Sustainability Amendments

We cannot grow healthy food without clean water and proper stewardship of our land.  Today, the Senate recognized that fact by passing a Farm Bill free of attacks on core public health and environmental protections. We congratulate Senate members for their hard work to keep the Senate version of the Farm Bill clean.  

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

Groups File in Support of Maryland Pesticide Restrictions

Ten organizations filed an Amicus brief this week in support of a 2015 landmark Montgomery County, Maryland ordinance that restricts the use of toxic pesticides on public and private land within the county.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

U.S. judge allows Monsanto’s Roundup cancer lawsuit to go to trial, victims will be heard in court

Federal judge found sufficient evidence to move to trial hundreds of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto Co.’s glyphosate-containing weed-killer Roundup causes cancer.

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

Johnson & Johnson commits to disclose fragrance ingredients in baby products by August 1

J&J  it intends to disclose 100 percent of the ingredients in its babycare products next month.

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

U.S. PIRG statement on the resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

President Donald Trump announced today via Twitter that he has accepted the resignation of embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. In response, Kara Cook-Schultz, the director of U.S. PIRG’s toxics program, released this statement:

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

Senate Passes Bipartisan Farm Bill Free of Anti-Sustainability Amendments

We cannot grow healthy food without clean water and proper stewardship of our land.  Today, the Senate recognized that fact by passing a Farm Bill free of attacks on core public health and environmental protections. We congratulate Senate members for their hard work to keep the Senate version of the Farm Bill clean.  

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

Groups File in Support of Maryland Pesticide Restrictions

Ten organizations filed an Amicus brief this week in support of a 2015 landmark Montgomery County, Maryland ordinance that restricts the use of toxic pesticides on public and private land within the county.

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Result | Public Health

Convincing McDonald’s and Subway to protect public health

In 2015, bolstered by the support of more than 100,000 members and supporters, we convinced both McDonald’s and Subway to take action to protect public health. In March, just two days after we delivered more than 30,000 petitions to McDonald’s headquarters, the company announced that they would stop serving chicken raised on medically-important antibiotics. And in October, after more than 100,000 called on the chain to take action, Subway announced a similar policy for all the meat they serve.

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Result | Public Health

Making Our Food Safe to Eat

U.S. PIRG helped to pass the FDA Food Modernization Act, which strenthened the Food and Drug Administration's authority to monitor food safety. This bill strengthened the FDA's food safety program for the first time in 70 years. The bill was stuck in Congress for over a year until U.S. PIRG and the State PIRGs organized a public outreach campaign, speaking with more than 300,000 people about the issue.

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Result | Public Health

KIDS’ SCHOOL LUNCHES NOW SAFER

For years, America’s schoolchildren have been eating beef, chicken and other foods that would have been rejected as substandard even by fast food chains. Thanks in part to our advocacy, the U.S.D.A. has stopped buying such low-quality meat for school lunches.

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

Accidents Waiting to Happen: Coal Ash Ponds Put Our Waterways at Risk

Clean water is essential to America’s health and welfare. Our lakes, rivers, streams and creeks provide us with water to drink, add character to our most beautiful natural places, and give us places to fish and swim. Unfortunately, our waterways are under constant threat of pollution from dangerous facilities located along their banks. These facilities are accidents waiting to happen.

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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.

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

Kiss Off: A Consumer's Guide To Saying No To Toxic Lip Products

Lip products are used by most Americans every day. In fact, 81 percent of women and 39 percent of men use lipstick or lip balm products. Unfortunately, the ingredients in these products are barely regulated, and many major brands use toxic chemicals in these products. This consumer guide includes some potentially dangerous examples and a few “safer” alternative products that do not contain these toxic ingredients. With so many lip products that contain toxic chemicals, it is hard for the average consumer to know what is safe to use and what is not.

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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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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.

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News Post | Food

Is This The Start Of A Sustainable Farming Revolution? | Kara Cook-Schultz

In 2003, Sikkim began to aggressively phase out the use of pesticides on every farm in the state. Now, 15 years later, officials say the switch to all-organic agriculture has improved the health of residents, and of the region’s ecosystem.

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News Post | Public Health

Toxic triclosan in toothpaste? | Dev Gowda

A in the LA Times revealed that a new study found that the toxic compound triclosan, which is commonly found in toothpaste as well as other consumer products such as cosmetics, children’s toys, and yoga mats, “could cause adverse effects on colonic inflammation and colon cancer.”

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News Post | Public Health

How Home Depot Can Protect Our Families By Taking Deadly Products Off Shelves | Kara Cook-Schultz

We’re working to convince Home Depot to also remove deadly paint strippers from its shelves.

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News Post | Public Health

The EPA Is Moving To Scrap Chemical Plant Safety Rules, Putting 134 Million People At Risk | Kara Cook-Schultz

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving to scrap improvements to its Risk Management Program that would help save the lives of nearby residents and first responders in the event of a chemical plant disaster.

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News Post | Public Health

School’s Out For Summer, Let’s Get Lead Out Forever | Kara Cook-Schultz

Summer is an occasion for long days at the beach, family vacations and backyard barbecues. It’s also an opportunity for school districts across the country to replace fixtures and pipes that contain the potent neurotoxin lead.

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