food Program

Take Action: Food

The industrial food system is in desperate need of reform.  For those who'd like to make it happen, we've created a list of five things consumers can do, and 10 things the US can do to help effect an efficient transition to a sustainable food future. (You can also discover many other opportunities to make sustainable food, water and energy choices on our Take Action homepage.)

Five Things Consumers Can Do

1. Make Sustainable Food Choices

Sustainable agriculture protects the natural environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare — it also produces foods that are better for you than the highly processed industrial alternatives. Take action to safeguard the environment and improve your health by purchasing foods from local, sustainable farms. Learn more about shopping for sustainable foods on Sustainable Table.

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2. Safeguard Antibiotics

80% of all antimicrobials sold in the US are administered to livestock in order to boost growth rates and compensate for crowded, unsanitary conditions. This practice promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which threaten public health and reduce the effectiveness of medicines used by humans. Support a ban on the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

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3. Fight for a Fair Farm Bill

The farm bill is a piece of legislation that has a tremendous impact on what kind of food is produced in the US, how this food is produced, and who has access to it. Demand a farm bill that supports sustainable agriculture and promotes the production of healthful, affordable food available to everyone.

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4. Support Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

Despite overwhelming public support for labeling genetically engineered (aka GE / genetically modified / GM / GMO) foods, manufacturers are still not required to disclose whether their products contain GE ingredients. Support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods to give consumers the information they need to make informed choices.

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5. Be Engaged

Become a sustainable food system advocate! Educate yourself about the issues, share this information with others, and support organizations that promote sustainable food.

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Ten Things the US Should Do

1. Support Sustainable Farms

A sustainable food system can’t exist without sustainable farms! The government should encourage, promote, and support sustainable farming through financial incentives, educational programs, agricultural research, training and assistance for beginning and transitional farmers, and investment in the infrastructure required to bring sustainable foods from farm to table.

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  • Support local, sustainable farms! Find farmers' markets, CSAs, and sustainable farms near you through Eat Well Guide.
  • Help build a sustainable food system with Food Corps.
  • Connect with your local and regional food system and join the national conversation about food and agriculture through the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.

2. Regulate Factory Farms

Also known as industrial livestock operations or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), factory farms threaten human health, destroy the environment, degrade rural areas, and compromise animal welfare. These problems should be addressed through creation of better CAFO regulations, improved enforcement of regulations, and implementation of common-sense policies to protect society from the abuses perpetrated by the industrial livestock sector.

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3. Improve Food Safety

As a result of weak regulations, inadequate oversight, and the increasing consolidation and centralization of food processing and distribution, rates of food contamination are unacceptably high, causing large-scale outbreaks of foodborne illness to occur all too often. In the interest of public health, food safety standards must be improved and regulatory oversight must be strengthened.

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4. Produce Healthful Food for Everyone

Healthful food shouldn’t be a luxury —it should be available and affordable to everyone. Policies should be implemented to improve food access and food security, reform the school food program, and educate the public about food choices and personal health.

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5. Ban Nontherapeutic Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture

The nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture poses a serious threat to public health and to the efficacy of drugs used to treat human illness. Regulators should heed the advice of doctors and public health professionals, and ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

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6. Regulate Genetically Engineered Foods

The US should adopt a more prudent policy approach to genetically engineered (GE) foods; regulators should implement mandatory labeling of GE foods, create a more rigorous testing/approval process for GE organisms, and reject the approval of GE fish.

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  • Sign a petition to the FDA through the Just Label It campaign.

7. Protect Farm Workers

Without those who work on our nation’s farms, none of us would eat. Yet farm laborers often suffer gross injustices in the forms of dangerous working conditions, absurdly inadequate pay, and, in some cases, severe human rights abuses. A food system cannot be sustainable without being fair; policies should be created to protect farm laborers by safeguarding workers' rights, establishing a fair wage, regulating pesticides, and monitoring agricultural working conditions to protect public health.

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8. Promote Sustainable Food by Creating a Fair Farm Bill

The farm bill has an enormous influence on the US food system. Policymakers should strive to develop a farm bill that promotes good food, creates fair markets for farmers and consumers, revises the commodity crop subsidy structure, supports local/regional food systems, and creates the distribution networks necessary to support sustainable agriculture.

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9. Protect the Environment

The future of food and the health and wellbeing of humanity depend upon the protection of the earth’s natural systems. Legislators should implement policies that promote soil conservation, safeguard water resources, protect biodiversity, reduce dependence on fossil-fuel-driven industrial agricultural techniques, and more effectively regulate pesticides and other toxic substances.

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10. Account for the True Cost of Food

Sustainable agriculture can replace the industrial model, but this transition requires a level playing field and fair markets. Policymakers, consumers, and industry must account for the true cost of food when making decisions; this requires effective assessment of the negative externalities and other market failures associated with industrial agriculture.

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  • Make decisions that account for our economic dependence on natural and social capital.