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

Blog Post | Public Health

Home remodeling shouldn’t be a deadly project: Toxic paint removers being sold by Lowe’s and other stores | Dev Gowda

No one should lose a loved one to deadly chemicals. But right now you can walk into Lowe’s and other stores and buy paint removers containing highly toxic chemicals.

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

Grieving parents & health advocates urge Lowe’s to pull deadly paint strippers from store shelves

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joins Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling paint strippers made with methylene chloride and the chemical NMP.

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

More Info On Our Testing Methodology for Asbestos in Makeup

Claire’s Stores Inc. incorrectly claims that our testing methods are unsound. Its accusations are misinformed at best, and seem to be designed to distract from the bottom-line: that Claire’s is selling makeup that contains asbestos to preteens.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. PIRG decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

As Electric Cars Revolutionize the Vehicle Market, New Study Helps Cities Address Infrastructure and Parking Challenges

With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting U.S. streets in record numbers, a new study by WashPIRG Foundation, Environment Washington Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group highlights best practices to help local officials make their cities as EV-friendly as possible. The new report, “Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles,” includes local and state data for Seattle and Tacoma about the projected number of electric cars expected on the road in coming years, and how cities can accommodate these new EVs with enough places to park and recharge.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Grieving parents & health advocates urge Lowe’s to pull deadly paint strippers from store shelves

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joins Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling paint strippers made with methylene chloride and the chemical NMP.

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

More Info On Our Testing Methodology for Asbestos in Makeup

Claire’s Stores Inc. incorrectly claims that our testing methods are unsound. Its accusations are misinformed at best, and seem to be designed to distract from the bottom-line: that Claire’s is selling makeup that contains asbestos to preteens.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

As Electric Cars Revolutionize the Vehicle Market, New Study Helps Cities Address Infrastructure and Parking Challenges

With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting U.S. streets in record numbers, a new study by WashPIRG Foundation, Environment Washington Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group highlights best practices to help local officials make their cities as EV-friendly as possible. The new report, “Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles,” includes local and state data for Seattle and Tacoma about the projected number of electric cars expected on the road in coming years, and how cities can accommodate these new EVs with enough places to park and recharge.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Public Health, Antibiotics, Food

New Campaign Calls on McDonald’s to Hold the Antibiotics from Their Meat Supply Chain

 

WashPIRG Foundation is calling on McDonald’s to commit to a concrete timeline to phase out routinely using medically-important antibiotics in its beef and pork supply chains. The WashPIRG Foundation is singling out the iconic fast food company because McDonald’s has an outsized influence as the biggest purchaser of beef in the United States, and it has a vague long-term antibiotics plan. Health experts, including the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics, warn that the routine use of antibiotics on animals that aren’t sick fuels drug-resistant bacteria, a major health threat to humans.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Result | Tax

Researching How Tax Dollars Become Twinkies

WashPIRG Foundation found that since 1995, $17 billion in agricultural subsidies have gone to corn syrup and other junk food ingredients. That’s enough to buy 2.8 billion Twinkies, and vastly more than has gone to apples and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

> Keep Reading

Keeping Toxic Chemicals Out Of Children’s Toys

Until recently, toy makers did not have to report when formaldehyde or other toxic chemicals were used in toys that could end up in kids’ mouths. Thanks to a new WashPIRG-backed law, they now have to, and we’ll be better able to hold manufacturers accountable for the safety of children’s products.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. PIRG decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Public Health

Kiss Off

Lip products are used by most Americans every day. In fact, 81 percent of women and 39 percent of men use lipstick or lip balm products. Unfortunately, the ingredients in these products are barely regulated, and many major brands use toxic chemicals in these products. This consumer guide includes some potentially dangerous examples and a few “safer” alternative products that do not contain these toxic ingredients. With so many lip products that contain toxic chemicals, it is hard for the average consumer to know what is safe to use and what is not.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Solid Waste

Trash in America

The United States produces an immense amount of waste. Natural resources are continually extracted to produce goods that are used in the U.S. – often only briefly – before they are thrown into landfills, incinerators or the natural environment. This system of consumption and disposal results in the waste of precious resources and pollution that threatens our health, environment and global climate.

> Keep Reading
Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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

Trouble in Toyland 2017

For over 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates, parents, the leadership of Congress, state legislatures, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Public Health

Home remodeling shouldn’t be a deadly project: Toxic paint removers being sold by Lowe’s and other stores | Dev Gowda

No one should lose a loved one to deadly chemicals. But right now you can walk into Lowe’s and other stores and buy paint removers containing highly toxic chemicals.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Tips and FAQ about the Equifax Breach | Mike Litt

Hackers gained access to the personal data of over 145 million Americans in the Equifax breach. Here are some recommended actions consumers can take to protect themselves and answers to frequently asked questions.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

During This Intense Hurricane Season: Some Reports and Information On Storms, Chemicals and Public Safety | Kara Cook-Schultz

Hurricane Harvey was a natural disaster, and a devastating one at that. During and after the hurricane, we learned anew that it’s not only the initial storm that threatens life and limb, but also chemical facilities that are hit.  As Irma bears down on Florida, we hope for the best outcome for the people of Florida. We also want the state to prepare for the worst. In that spirit, here are some resources and information on storms, chemicals and public safety.

> 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

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

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

Learn More

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