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 | Public Health

Over 50 Groups Call on Restaurant Chain to Change Beef Sourcing Policies

As a significant purchaser of meat, we believe that In-N-Out has a major opportunity and responsibility to address this growing public health threat. Our groups call on In-N-Out to make commitments on antibiotic stewardship.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

President's New Budget Proposal Good on Antibiotics | Bill Wenzel

From where I sit, there’s a lot to like in the President’s budget.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

The Flint Water Crisis: What You Need to Know | Kara Cook-Schultz

With President Obama clearing the way for federal aid in Flint, Michigan last month, the water crisis is receiving immediate attention. The city was badly in need of a short-term fix, but what about the future of affected Flint citizens?

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Will Yum! Brands Commit to Better Antibiotic Stewardship Policies?

"Despite these successes, we need to re-double our efforts to counter new threats from superbugs that increasingly diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics. We will continue to ramp up our consumer awareness and advocacy campaigns to ensure that the superbugs don't win."

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | CALPIRG | Food

New Farm Bill Contains Massive Taxpayer Handouts To Big Ag

CALPIRG urges Congress to vote NO on the Farm Bill. At a time of supposed fiscal caution, this bill would put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, profitable agribusinesses. 

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Take Steps to Prevent Chemical Spills

CALPIRG's Legislative Advocate, Garo Manjikian, responds to the Chemical Security Accident in West Virginia in this published letter to the editor in the Sacramento Bee. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

Los Angeles a Hot Zone for Chemical Risks

Los Angeles, CA - CALPIRG and other community leaders pushed the Obama administration to take bold strides to reduce the danger posed to communities by high-risk chemical facilities surrounding Los Angeles during a public listening session at UCLA.  The listening session is part of an Executive Order from President Obama issued in response to accidents like the tragedy in West, TX tragedy that killed 14 people and razed nearby schools and homes, and the 2012 explosion at the Richmond, CA Chevron refinery that sent 15,000 people to the hospital.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Government pays billions to grow ingredients in junk food

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

A new consumer report reveals most government subsidies for farmers are being funneled toward crops used to make junk food.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Apples to Twinkies Study

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.- Apples or Twinkies? When it comes to your child's health it's an obvious choice, but now a new study shows where your money is really going when it comes to the products on the shelves, you have to choose from.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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