Improve our nation’s food system, from crop selection and farming practices to food processing and accessibility. We already know how to produce food that nourishes people without abusing workers, animals, or the environment—our country’s policies should support sustainable farming.
The current food and agriculture system damages the environment and threatens human health.
Industrial agriculture—vast monoculture fields, concentrated animal factories, and over-grazed public lands—heavily pollutes our air and water. As a whole, the food system is responsible for a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Perceived conflicts between livestock and some of our country’s most iconic species, including bears, buffalo, and wolves, motivate fierce efforts to eliminate wildlife protections. Dangerous pesticides put farmworkers and their families, as well as consumers, at risk.
Off the farm, outdated government policies, overprocessed foods with added chemicals, and the relative inaccessibility of nutritious food force many people to adopt poor diets, leading to cancers and other chronic diseases that disproportionately harm low-income communities and people of color. Billions of dollars are spent annually to subsidize crops used for wasteful animal feed, climate-harming biofuel, and unhealthy food and drinks. Almost forty percent of the food we grow is discarded. Many of this country’s lowest paid and most dangerous jobs are in the food system.
Our Strategy & Impact:
Earthjustice has shown that focused and persistent legal advocacy can clean up industries. Now we are applying our experience and knowledge to reform Big Food. Working in partnership with activists, communities, progressive farmers and ranchers, scientists and others, we can—and will—compel change. The good news is that many farmers have demonstrated how to be sustainable and profitable using natural systems, such as crop rotations, cover crops, integrated animal-crop approaches, careful pest management, or adding trees or steam buffers to crop land. Our job is to support and accelerate these approaches, while fighting polluting or harmful practices.
Healthy and Safe Food. Manufacturers often add unhealthy chemicals to food and package the food in material that can be toxic.
- We are challenging a major loophole in food safety oversight that allows manufacturers to decide for themselves—in secret—that a new or untested chemical is “safe” enough to be added to our food.
- We are challenging food companies to stop adding unhealthy chemicals such as lead, phthalates and known carcinogens to foods and food packaging.
- We are suing the government to ensure that consumers receive the nutrition information they need to make informed dietary decisions without delay.
Climate-friendly Farming. Like all industries, agriculture contributes to climate change. Fertilizer can emit nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas and ozone depleter), livestock produce methane (a potent greenhouse gas), industrial farming techniques release carbon stored in the soil, and food processing is energy-intensive. Fortunately, there are many farmers using agro-ecological practices that are productive, economical, and sustainable—these are our models.
- We are working to incentivize farming practices known to reduce emissions of climate changing gases such as methane from cows and nitrous oxides from excess fertilizers.
- We are working with states to enact healthy soil laws or reform tax incentives to encourage carbon farming.
- We have written a blueprint for policies to advance climate friendly practices.
Safer Farming. Working with workers, communities, forward-thinking farmers, scientists and others, we aim to create incentives for the use of natural systems that reduce the need for added fertilizers and pesticides and level the playing field for cleaner farming.
- We have fought for and obtained nationwide protections for farmworkers exposed to pesticides. Now, we are fighting to keep them in place and will ensure the new standards are well implemented.
- We sued the Trump administration because it ignored the science and the recommendation of its own staff in choosing not to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used toxic pesticide derived from WWII nerve agents, and are working to get progressive states to take action in the face of federal inaction.
- We’re trying to stop the “arms race” of genetically modified herbicide resistant crops, and have challenged EPA’s approval of new highly dangerous herbicide mixtures developed to combat the growing resistance of weeds to prior herbicides.
- We’ve sued to ensure waters heavily polluted by agricultural runoff are cleaned up.
Animal Farms, not Animal Factories. Industrial animal facilities, better known as factory farms, emit enormous amounts of pollution.
- We challenged the New York permit governing large dairies because it failed to ensure adequate impartial expert government oversight of and public participation in the manure disposal plans.
- Having successfully defeated a Bush-era rule exempting animal factories from having to report their toxic air emissions, we are now defending that and related wins from override in the hostile Congress.
Contact Sustainable Food & Farming Program
48 Wall Street, 19th Fl.
New York, NY 10005
Lisa Garcia VP of Litigation for Healthy Communities
Peter Lehner Senior Strategic Advisor
Alexis Andiman Associate Attorney
Tyler Smith Staff Scientist