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

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 | CALPIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

San Francisco Moves to Ban Toxic Flame Retardants in Furniture and Children's Products

Today at a committee hearing, San Francisco Supervisors voted to ban toxic flame retardant chemicals in furniture and children's products, moving the bill forward for consideration by the full board. At CALPIRG, we applaud this move.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

CALPIRG applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

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 | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Statement on San Diego Unified Lead Policy

Our Public Health Advocate, Jason Pfeifle, joined San Diego school officials to announce the district's new policy for protecting kids from lead in drinking water. The new plan requires the district to test all drinking water outlets for lead and to do physical repairs anytime a water tap tests positive for lead at 5 parts per billion of higher. This new standard is one third of the level of lead currently allowed in school drinking water by California policy. This new policy was adopted in response to CALPIRG calling on the school district to adopt more stringent standards for ensuring safe drinking water for kids. 

> Keep Reading

Statement on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

Statement from CALPIRG Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

CA Assembly Passes Bill to Disclose Toxic Chemicals in Cleaning Products

Cleaning shouldn't harm anyone's health. But for far too long we've been kept in the dark about health-harming chemicals used in cleaning supplies. Today the California state Assembly passed SB 258, The Cleaning Product Right-to-Know Act. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Parents put Lead-Free Schools Toolkit on their “Back to School” List

With “back to school” in full swing this week, CALPIRG Education Fund today offered a new toolkit to help parents, teachers, and administrators get the lead out of schools’ drinking water.  

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Food

A nationwide call: KFC, help save antibiotics! | Anya Vanecek

Over eighty organizations and hundreds of consumers launched a call for KFC to switch to selling chicken raised without routine antibiotics. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Nicely Done, Attorneys General | Steve Blackledge

This month 12 state attorneys general highlighted the importance of state power to regulate toxic chemicals. We thank them for their efforts. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Five Things You Should Know About DuPont Chemical Company | Anna Low-Beer

DuPont Chemical Company knew it was polluting communities with a toxic chemical, but kept it quiet for decades. Here's what else you need to know about the industry giant. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

It's Time to Come Clean! | Jason Pfeifle

 

Today we joined our allies to rally in support of the Cleaning Product Right-to-Know Act (AB 708), a bill in California that would require companies to disclose cleaning product ingredients to consumers.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

The foundation is crumbling | Bill Wenzel

What was missing from President Obama's visionary plan for medical progress? 

> 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 CALPIRG’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