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 | 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
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
Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Get the Lead Out

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 including California are so far failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Statement on Unilever’s Decision to Disclose Fragrance Ingredients in Personal Care Products

CALPIRG applauds personal care product giant Unilever US, the maker of popular brands like Dove and Axe, for its announcement today that it will increase fragrance ingredient transparency in its personal care brands.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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
Media Hit | Public Health, Food

In-N-Out commitment causes media frenzy

In-N-Out just became the first burger chain in the nation to commit to phase out the use of routine antibiotics from its beef production!

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health, Food

A Letter to In-N-Out

"Your customers care deeply about addressing antibiotic overuse on livestock. In order for your customers and the public at large to have confidence that the company has a strong antibiotics policy, we urge the company to take the following next steps..."

> Keep Reading
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

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

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