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, 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

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

Pages

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
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

It’s Time to Get Lead out of School Drinking Water, Says CALPIRG

Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, CALPIRG today launched a new campaign for Lead-Free Schools. A new analysis by CALPIRG Education Fund and Environment California Research and Policy Center gave California a grade of “F” for failing to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. Assemblymember Blanca E.Rubio (D-48, Baldwin Park), Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-80, San Diego), and Dr. Lauren Gambill, a pediatrician representing the American Academy of Pediatrics, all joined CALPIRG in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in California's schools.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Superbug Outbreak at UCLA Hospital | Anya Vanecek

The outbreak of drug-resistant CRE bacteria at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Hospital reminds us that the dangers of antibiotic resistant bacteria is very real. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

World health Organization releases report on spread of antibiotic resistance

Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its first-ever report on the spread of antibiotic resistance around the world. Their findings sound the alarm for aggressive action to stop the misuse of antibiotics in order to preserve their effectiveness for years to come.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Health Care

Supreme Court hears arguments on ‘Pay for Delay’ Case

Big Pharma’s anti-competitive practice costs consumers $3.5 billion a year. The 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act was originally intended to increase the availability of generic drugs by allowing generic manufacturers to challenge the patents of name-brand drugs. What emerged in the aftermath was a practice where patent-holding pharmaceutical companies simply paid generic manufacturers not to challenge their patents, thus delaying the release of generic drugs for years. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Food

California’s Initiative to label GMOs defeated, but States taking up the Fight | Jon Fox

Unfazed by the defeat of Prop 37 in California, consumer groups are working across states for labeling and have united as the Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

Farm Bill Still Giving out Corporate Handouts to Big Ag | Emily Rusch

Instead of embracing reform, the Senate decided to continue to send tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to Big Ag. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Henry Avocado Corporation is recalling avocados potentially contaminated with the deadly listeria bacteria. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG said in a statement: “We are barely getting a chance to breath between recalls."

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Just seven weeks after Tyson Foods recalled chicken nuggets that could contain rubber, the poultry giant is recalling chicken strips that might contain metal. 

Report | CALPIRG Education Fund

Our children need safe drinking water – especially at school where they go to learn and play each day.  Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country. As our report shows, states are failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school.  Instead of waiting for more testing, we need to proactively remove the lead pipes and plumbing at the root of this toxic hazard for our children.

News Release | CALPIRG

Los Angeles – Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, CALPIRG gave California a C+ grade today for addressing the problem, according to a new national report. In the second edition of CALPIRG Education Fund’s Get The Lead Out study, the state showed some progress since its F grade on a similar report card in 2017. The American Academy of Pediatrics, California State PTA, and Compton Unified School district all joined CALPIRG in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in California’s schools and daycares.

News Release | CALPIRG

Landmark legislation introduced today would impose a statewide ban on cosmetics that include any of 20 highly toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or hormone disruption. Assembly Bill 495, authored by Assembly members Al Muratsuchi (Torrance) and Buffy Wicks (Oakland), halts the sale of cosmetics products containing toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan and the fluorinated compounds known as PFAS in California. The legislation is sponsored by CALPIRG and Environmental Working Group.

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Glyphosate in beer and wine

Research shows that beer and wine are contaminated with glyphosate, the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup.

 

Public Health

How safe is our food?

Our latest report examines recent food safety trends, case studies of national recalls, what they mean for our health, and what we should do about it. 

 
View AllRSS Feed

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