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/ShutterstockMN Studios/ShutterstockChafer Machinery CC by 2.0

Issue updates

Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

Shrinking the Dead Zone, Reducing Fertilizer Use | Bill Wenzel

Last week, scientists predicted that this year’s hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be the 3rd largest since monitoring began 32 years ago. The “dead zone” will cover about 8,185 square miles — an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

> 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
News Release | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Stop the Superbugs

Local doctors called upon the Obama Administration today to immediately restrict the use of antibiotics on factory farms when animals are not sick.  The doctors are part of a nationwide coalition of more than 2,000 medical professionals working against the declining effectiveness of antibiotics due to overuse and misuse.

> Keep Reading
Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production

Despite the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (i.e. 'superbugs'), antibiotics are used in massive, untargeted and unrestricted quantities and are not even limited to the treatment of sick people.  As a consequence, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is now cited by health experts in the United States and across the globe as one of the most serious health crises of our time.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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
News Release | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Stop the Superbugs

Local doctors called upon the Obama Administration today to immediately restrict the use of antibiotics on factory farms when animals are not sick.  The doctors are part of a nationwide coalition of more than 2,000 medical professionals working against the declining effectiveness of antibiotics due to overuse and misuse.

> Keep Reading
News Release | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Food Safety Scares 2013: How FDA Delays are Putting American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Food

 

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delays in implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act have put Connecticut lives at risk and cost the country $22 million in economic costs, according to a new report by the ConnPIRG Education Fund.

> Keep Reading
News Release | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Food

Ag Subsidies Pay for 21 Twinkies per Taxpayer, But Only Half of an Apple Apiece

Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to ConnPIRG’s new report, Apples to Twinkies 2012. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy one half of an apple per taxpayer.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Food

Food Safety News: USDA Unveils New School Lunch Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday unveiled proposed nutritional standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the first major upgrade to nutritional requirements in 15 years. The tougher standards are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, recently signed into law by President Obama, that aims to reduce both childhood hunger and obesity.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production

Despite the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (i.e. 'superbugs'), antibiotics are used in massive, untargeted and unrestricted quantities and are not even limited to the treatment of sick people.  As a consequence, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is now cited by health experts in the United States and across the globe as one of the most serious health crises of our time.

> Keep Reading
Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

A Year of Progress

While mandatory labeling has met with obstacles, legislation is not the only arena for progress – and the past year has shown that food producers and retailers are listening to consumers’ desire for information and choices when it comes to GMOs.

> Keep Reading
Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Food Safety Scares 2013

With millions of Americans getting sick from tainted food each year, more needs to be done to protect people from the risk of unsafe food. But important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety have been blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue. 

> Keep Reading
Report | ConnPIRG Education Fund | Food

Apples to Twinkies 2012

At a time when America is facing an obesity epidemic, crushing debt and a weak economy, billions of taxpayer dollars are subsidizing junk food ingredients. In this report, we find that in 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to a staggering $18.2 billion since 1995. To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year - 21 for every single American taxpayer.

 

> Keep Reading
Report | Food

Apples to Twinkies

America is facing an obesity epidemic – one that’s hitting children especially hard. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Food

Shrinking the Dead Zone, Reducing Fertilizer Use | Bill Wenzel

Last week, scientists predicted that this year’s hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be the 3rd largest since monitoring began 32 years ago. The “dead zone” will cover about 8,185 square miles — an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

> Keep Reading
View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports ConnPIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support ConnPIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.