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

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Looking Inward

We surveyed nearly 1,000 personal care products from 26 popular cosmetics companies and scored them on ingredient safety and disclosure. The major takeaway: most companies need to do a lot more to inform their customers about what ingredients are in their products.

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

Getting off the Hook of a Predatory Tow

U.S. PIRG Education Fund identified 14 common-sense towing protections that should be available to consumers in every state, and researched which states offer those safeguards. These protections range from who is responsible for damages caused by careless towing to whether you are guaranteed the option to pay by credit card.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Dude, where’s my car? | Mark Morgenstein

Getting your vehicle towed can be a memorable experience -- not in a good way

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

Report: Getting off the hook of a predatory tow, state-by-state

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed without their consent from private property or a public street. U.S. PIRG Education Fund has identified 14 common sense towing protections that should be available to consumers in every state, and researched which states offer those safeguards.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | COVID-19

Report: Nursing homes cope with huge staff shortages

At any given time throughout most of 2020, more than 200,000 Americans resided in nursing homes that admit they were suffering through staff shortages.

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

McDonald’s commits to eliminating toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in food packaging globally

McDonald’s announced a commitment to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging used in its restaurants by 2025. PFAS are linked to kidney and liver problems, high cholesterol, reduced immune system function, and cancer.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

Money for nothing: Paying the same car insurance while driving less during the pandemic

While COVID-19 is causing financial difficulties for tens of millions of Americans, auto insurers nationwide have made tens of billions of dollars in profit because consumers have driven significantly less during the pandemic.

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

New report exposes seven budget-eating highway projects still moving forward amid COVID-related budget shortfalls

The COVID-19 crisis has changed how Americans travel and has left transportation agencies scrambling for money to maintain basic service, yet states are continuing to press on with billions of dollars worth of highway expansion projects that made little sense before the pandemic and even less now. In the sixth edition of their Highway Boondoggles report, we identify seven new budget-eating highway expansion projects across the United States, slated to move forward amid a nationwide health crisis at a cost of over $26 billion collectively.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG

New report: A blueprint for stronger, more sustainable American infrastructure

 On Jan. 20, 2021, the United States will have a new president, helping to turn the page on a brutal year of disease and disruption. While stark political divisions will undoubtedly remain, a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center, and Frontier Group lays out a vision to bridge political divides through infrastructure investment, seizing a critical opportunity to emerge as a stronger nation after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | U.S.PIRG Education Fund and Kids In Danger | Consumer Protection

Recalled Infant Sleepers

Every day, millions of kids are dropped off at child care facilities across the country by parents and caretakers who are looking forward to seeing them safe and sound at the end of the day. But new research found some dangerous recalled products are still in use at child care facilities across the country.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 5

Highway Boondoggles 5 finds nine new budget-eating highway projects slated to cost a total of $25 billion that will harm communities and the environment, while likely failing to achieve meaningful transportation goals

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

Composting in America

America throws out immense amounts or trash, most of which is dumped into landfills or burned in trash incinerators. This is a costly system that damages the environment and harms our health. Luckily, communities across the country are turning toward a common-sense and beneficial solution: composting. Composting programs divert organic material – such as food scraps, leaves, branches, grass clippings and other biodegradable material – away from landfills and incinerators and turn it into a valuable product.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Volkswagen Settlement State Scorecard

Every state, with the exception of Florida, has now published its plan to spend the money being received as part of the Volkswagen emissions violations settlement. This scorecard grades each state’s plan on how well it is designed to take full advantage of the opportunity to invest in transportation electrification.

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

Blueprint For Tomorrow

Infrastructure is at the heart of America’s greatest challenges. The infrastructure investments made by generations past have contributed to improved health and welfare, and to the nation’s unparalleled economic prosperity. But the infrastructure decisions of the past have also cast a long shadow, leaving America to deal with the burden of lead water pipes that jeopardize our children’s health, fossil fuel pipelines that contribute to global warming, and transportation and solid waste infrastructure that no longer serve today’s needs.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Solid Waste

Toxic chemicals in single-use plastics are harming human healthDanielle MelgarHaley Clinton

Plastic is a problem not just for our environment, but also for our health. Chemicals used to make plastics anti-microbial, flame retardant, and more, can be toxic.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

PFAS Free & I’m Lovin’ It | Danielle Melgar

McDonald’s just committed to phasing out PFAS-treated food packaging from its restaurants globally by 2025. Other restaurants, like Burger King and Wendy’s, should follow its lead.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

Rebooking airline tickets: How to sort out various vouchers and credits for future flights | Jacob van Cleef

With vaccines here, it may soon be time to reschedule vacations and other trips for later this year

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

Online shopping tips: Don't let last-minute desperation make you careless | Jacob van Cleef

Here's some advice to help keep your information and wallet safe

> 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.