This week, the Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) joined over 300 organizations calling for food system solutions to be front and center in a Green New Deal (GND). In the letter, we urge Congress to invest in climate-friendly agricultural practices that restore the environment and rural communities. To achieve its goals, any GND must promote transparency and truth-telling and protect whistleblowers who reveal mistakes and misdeeds behind the scenes.
The GND proposes a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and transition to clean energy, while creating good jobs at the same time, harkening back to the infrastructure programs of the New Deal during the Great Depression. The GND isn’t just about solar panels and electric cars—agriculture plays a very important role.
Agriculture alone accounts for over 8% of U.S. GHG emissions, while processing and transporting food emits even more. Over a third of U.S. methane emissions are the consequence of livestock and poultry production. Agriculture drives climate change, a force that in turn hurts agriculture. Droughts, extreme storms, and changes in overall weather patterns all threaten agricultural productivity, as even the U. S. Department of Agriculture acknowledges.
Our agricultural system doesn’t have to be this way. As the letter states, “Fortunately, there are solutions — well-demonstrated, effective and profitable agricultural practices at all scales in all regions of the country — that can help reduce pollution and repair our environment and climate while revitalizing communities across the country.” These solutions go beyond reducing GHG emissions to building a more economically and environmentally sustainable food system.
FIC’s decade of championing food system whistleblowers and the Government Accountability Project’s four decades of protecting whistleblowers have taught us an important lesson: there are crucial truths in the public’s interest to know that are only revealed when whistleblowers are heard and heeded. That’s been true for food safety, true for worker safety, true for unfair contracts, and true for climate science.
Climate change scientists, represented by Government Accountability Project’s Climate Science and Policy Watch Program, spoke up when the federal government tried to mute their findings and made sure the public knew just how bad the threat of climate change is. FIC whistleblowers have raised issues about problems with industrial agriculture that the GND will address in working to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture. For instance, reducing methane emissions from animal agriculture will also require addressing the concentration of manure at large facilities that threatens the environment and community well-being.
As the letter notes, food system workers from farms and processors to grocery stores and restaurants often work for low pay in difficult conditions. They’re also the front-line witnesses when something goes wrong. As we build a greener food system, we must make it easier for those witnesses to speak without fear of retaliation.