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 | CALPIRG | Public Health

Most California Schools Aren't Testing Water for Lead

In response to growing concerns about lead in school drinking water, the State Water Board launched a new initiative in January to offer schools free lead tests for their drinking water. Last week, the State Water Board released data showing that less than 5% of schools signed up for the free tests. In 38 counties, not a single school has requested a test.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Op-Ed in San Diego Union Tribune: California must do more to protect kids from lead exposure at schools

A recent string of reports have revealed lead-contaminated drinking water at several San Diego area elementary schools. Just last week, a therapy dog alerted school officials to tainted water in a charter school classroom. When dogs are sounding the alarm about lead-contaminated water, it’s pretty clear that more needs to be done in California to protect kids from this serious threat to their health.

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

VICTORY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: MONSANTO DEFEATED IN CALIFORNIA ROUNDUP CASE

A district court judge last week dismissed Monsanto’s lawsuit against the California Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the ruling, consumers will soon be informed of the health risks of Roundup and other products containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

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

New U.N. Report: We Can Feed The World Without Using Pesticides

A report released today by the United Nations finds that it is a “myth” that pesticides are needed to feed the world’s 7 billion people. Farmers can produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without the use of pesticides.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

If It Looks Like a Chicken and Walks Like a Chicken | Steve Blackledge

Earlier this week, Tyson Foods announced another big step toward stopping the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms. The announcement underscores a larger trend that’s been happening for a few years now; consumer pressure is helping to drive important public health changes in the marketplace. To be sure, there are laggards on the antibiotics front (see our recent blog on KFC), but perhaps no company has lagged as aggressively and proudly as Sanderson Farms. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Public Health

East Bay Times: California must tackle super-pollutants in air

"Through decades of emissions restrictions, California has made huge strides in cleaning our air and protecting public health from the worst effects of air pollution. But there is still more work to do, and the Legislature has an opportunity right now to pass a bill that would dramatically cut the super pollutants in our air," writes CALPIRG's Public Health Advocate Jason Pfeifle in the East Bay Times. 

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

More Than 350,000 Urge KFC to Prevent Abuse of Antibiotics in Its Chicken Supply

Today, representatives from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Food Animals Concern Trust (FACT) will deliver more than 350,000 petitions from consumers nationwide to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) headquarters in Louisville, while calling on the nation’s largest fried chicken chain to end the routine use of antibiotics by chicken producers in its supply chain. The petition signatures were also collected by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and CREDO Action. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Statement on Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) Reform

We are disappointed with the TSCA bill that was released by the House and Senate leaders and we urge Congress to reject the bill. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. By unnecessarily preempting states’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.

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

Taco Bell Moves Away From Chicken Raised on Medically Important Antibiotics

Taco Bell will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017. The announcement was included in a release from Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands, and comes amid widespread consumer demand and concern from the medical community about the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Taco Bell’s announcement will put major market pressure on the meat industry to stop overusing antibiotics and should push its partner brands KFC and Pizza Hut to have stronger commitments as well. 

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

Big Win For Consumers’ Right-to-Know

Today, the U.S. Senate failed to pass their version of the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which would have kept consumers in the dark about what's in the food they eat, falling 12 votes short of the 60 required to continue the debate.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

A Sub-stantial Achievement | Steve Blackledge

On October 20, Subway announced its plan to phase out antibiotics from its entire meat supply. This victory is just the next step of our mission to save antibiotics.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Victory! Subway Commits to Help Save Antibiotics

Yesterday Subway announced their plan to serve only antibiotic-free meat. Subway announced that they will completely phase out all antibiotic meat by 2025, with antibiotic free chicken made available by March 2016 and turkey by December 2016. This is a significant victory for public health.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Monsanto's RoundUp - It Doesn't Just Kill Weeds | Jason Pfeifle

Recent studies have shown that exposure to glyphosate - the key ingredient in RoundUp - poses grave health risks for people.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Livestock Antibiotics Bill is a Win for Public Health | Jason Pfeifle

Late last Friday the California Legislature passed SB 27, authored by Jerry Hill, to set new restrictions on antibiotic use in livestock production.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Administration Plan to Protect Antibiotics | Sujatha Jahagirdar

Today, the National Task Force for Combatting Resistant Bacteria released a five-year action plan to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.  While the plan will take several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it will miss the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

> 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