Survey: shoppers want food grown in ways that don’t hurt environment

Chicago – Ninety-five percent of Illinois shoppers would consider paying more for food grown in ways that limit harm to the environment, according to a new survey.

Questionnaires collected by Environment Illinois workers outside grocery stores in Chicago also show that 85 percent of shoppers think about the environment at least sometimes, and 94 percent might shift their buying habits if foods were labeled with their environmental impact.

“Farming should help the environment, not hurt it,” said Brittany King, campaign organizer with Environment Illinois. “Yet pollution from factory farms too often fouls our rivers, bays, and streams. Our survey shows consumers want that to change.”

From creating massive amounts of animal manure to overusing fertilizers and pesticides, large corporate agribusinesses are exacting a toll on waterways across the country. According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pollution from corporate agribusinesses has contributed to poor water quality in more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams across the U.S.

“Factory farms in Illinois create massive amounts of raw animal waste containing toxins, antibiotics, viruses, and dangerous antibiotic resistant superbugs. Farmland adjoining rural communities is often treated like a septic tank with unchecked manure over application, spills, and runoff into drinking water sources which poses grave danger to public health and the ecology of Illinois,” stated Karen Hudson, a farmer, regional representative for Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and co-founder of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water.

Pollution data from just one such agribusiness, Tyson Foods, Inc. – one of the world’s largest meat and poultry producers – shows the magnitude of the problem. A January analysis found the company and its subsidiaries released 104 million pounds of pollution to surface waters from 2010 to 2014, nearly seven times the volume of surface water discharges by Exxon during those years.

Environment Illinois is working to get Tyson Foods and other agribusinesses to reduce their water pollution by taking responsibility for manure from factory farms, requiring comprehensive efforts to minimize fertilizer runoff wherever grain is grown for their livestock, and cutting direct discharges of nitrates and other compounds at processing plants.

“The good food movement has been working for decades to shift public consciousness in this direction – this is an exciting consumer trend that our six-year-old co-op is growing alongside, expanding into a much bigger space this fall,” said Ally Young, communications coordinator for The Dill Pickle Food Co-op. “Rooting the retail side of our local food system in community ownership means accountability for sustainable practices – in land use, labor, and access – that serve people and our planet, not just profit.”

The survey results released today were part of an Environment America survey of more than 1,000 grocery shoppers across the country since January.

“This survey should encourage companies like Tyson to clean up their act,” said King, “and start raising produce and meat in a sustainable way.”

Environment Illinois

Environment Illinois is a statewide, citizen-funded advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.

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