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 | US PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: Safe Sleep Act passes House, awaits vote in Senate

In an effort to protect infants from unsafe consumer products, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Virtual wallets, real complaints

A report examining complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on digital payment apps, since the CFPB began collecting them in this category three years ago. The key takeaway: Consumers don’t realize these online transfer payments are instantaneous and treated like cash, so when fraud strikes, you’re likely to be left without recourse.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Solid Waste

Statement: Target’s new plastic packaging goal is a step in the right direction

The Fortune 50 retailer Target announced a new goal Tuesday to reduce its use of virgin plastic 20 percent by 2025 across its own brand frequency products. It is part of a new sustainability strategy called Target Forward and covers such key categories as household cleaning, personal care and beauty.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

New report: the hidden costs of peer-to-peer payment apps

Consumer complaints about peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Square have surged during the pandemic year. In April, there were 970 digital wallet complaints — almost double the previous monthly high from July 2020. PIRG Education Fund analyzed this growing problem for a new analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Consumer Complaint Database.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

Blocking Rooftop Solar

Solar power is helping move the United States toward a future of 100% renewable energy, while reducing global warming pollution, cleaning up the air in our communities, and empowering homeowners and business owners to generate their own electricity.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | US PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Statement: CPSC vote to regulate infant sleep products will save lives

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved tough new standards Wednesday to regulate several infant sleep products for the first time.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Report maps hundreds of toxic waste sites in the path of 2020's record-shattering Atlantic hurricane season

As “National Hurricane Preparedness Week” kicks off, many communities across the United States are still dealing with the devastating effects of last year’s record-shattering Atlantic hurricane season.

> Keep Reading
News Release

Statement: Landmark FTC report calls for action on Right to Repair

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report today on manufacturers' use of restrictive repair tactics that have kept consumers from repairing their own products.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Solid Waste

Lawmakers and public push Whole Foods to put “Planet Over Plastic” at upcoming annual meeting

AUSTIN, Texas --  U.S. PIRG Education Fund , Environment America Research & Policy Center, and Student PIRG sent 59,000 petitions and a letter signed by more than 40 state lawmakers Thursday to Whole Foods urging the company to commit to a comprehensive plan for phasing out single-use plastic packaging from its stores. This follows a March 2021 letter signed by more than 130 advocacy and community groups calling on the national supermarket chain to adopt a bold response to the plastic pollution crisis.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

Nursing home safety during COVID: Cases and vaccines

Hundreds of U.S. nursing homes this year are reporting their very first cases of COVID-19 after avoiding any cases all of last year. The high number of nursing homes that experienced their very first cases of COVID-19 this year -- while fending them off during the horror of 2020 -- is among the clear indications that this pandemic isn’t over. There are many reasons for optimism, particularly the huge turnaround that started in the second half of December when vaccines started rolling out. We found that has led to a decline in nursing home cases exceeding 80 percent.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S.PIRG Education Fund

Vital and Undervalued

As the pandemic has painfully reminded us, our entire society depends on caregivers yet we undervalue the vital contributions of unpaid family caregivers. It benefits all of us when it is possible for people to care for their loved ones who need care, so we should increase support for family caregivers.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumers in peril

U.S. PIRG Education Fund report documents that complaints to the CFPB, led by complaints about credit bureaus, set new records in 2020.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

Superfund Underfunded

In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), informally called Superfund. The Superfund program was given the authority and funds to hold polluters responsible for cleaning up contaminated waste sites or clean up the sites themselves if no responsible party can be found or afford the cleanup. These toxic waste sites house some of the most “hazardous chemicals known to humankind.” The Superfund toxic waste program protects people from these contaminants and the serious health problems associated with them.

> Keep Reading
Report | US PIRG Education Fund | COVID-19

Nursing home safety during COVID: Staff shortages

For most of last year, more than 200,000 people at any given time were in nursing homes that themselves acknowledged they were suffering from staff shortages.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | COVID-19

COVID-19 tests and vaccines are free to consumers. End of story. | Patricia Kelmar

Some consumers continue to be billed for COVID tests and vaccines. So let's get the story straight here.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips

An underappreciated way to fight the opioid crisis AND keep our waterways clean | Patricia Kelmar

 

Saturday, April 24, is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Plastic waste solutions hiding in plain sight: Recycled content requirements | Haley Clinton

This blog is the second in a series examining policy solutions to the plastic pollution crisis that are proven and replicable. This section covers recycled content requirements.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Another face of toxic-free beauty advocacy | Gina Werdel

We spoke to Je’May Ward, a clean beauty blogger from North Carolina, about what clean beauty advocacy means for her.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

Plastic waste solutions hiding in plain sight: Single-use plastic product bans | Haley Clinton

This blog is the first in a series examining policy solutions to the plastic pollution crisis that are proven and replicable. This section covers single-use plastic product bans.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | US PIRG

During this time of year, families are thinking about the children going back to school, and for parents who are sending their kids to college, it can be a bit overwhelming. A key to addressing those concerns is making sure their teens are prepared for “adulting” -- in other words, taking care of their own lives.

Blog Post

How the pandemic has worsened the medical debt crisis

News Release | US PIRG

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. said Wednesday it’s voluntarily recalling all lots of five types of Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol sunscreen after internal testing showed “low levels of benzene” -- which can cause cancer -- in some samples. J&J also said consumers should stop using the sunscreen.

Report | US PIRG Education Fund

The Chain Reaction VI report and scorecard ranks America’s top restaurant chains on their policies relating to antibiotic use in their beef supply chains. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Most top restaurant chains in the United States have failed to adopt policies to stop the overuse of antibiotics by their beef suppliers, according to the sixth annual Chain Reaction scorecard released today by six major consumer, public health and environmental organizations.

View AllRSS Feed

Support Us

Your tax-deductible donation supports NJPIRG Law & Policy Center's work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and to stand up to the powerful interests that are blocking progress

Support Us

You can also support NJPIRG Law & Policy Center’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.




NJPIRG Law & Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.