skip to Main Content
A new HHRA paper highlights the need to convert cropland growing fruits and vegetables to organic in order to reduce consumer's dietary risk from pesticide residues.

Archived HHRA News Posts
  • HHRA-funded Dicamba study published in “agrochemicals”

    Dicamba and 2,4-D in the Urine of Pregnant Women in the Midwest: Comparison of Two Cohorts (2010–2012 vs. 2020–2022) Abstract Currently, there are no known human biomonitoring studies that concurrently examine biomarkers of dicamba and 2,4-D. We sought to compare biomarkers of exposure to herbicides in pregnant women residing in the US Midwest before and after the adoption of dicamba-tolerant soybean technology using urine specimens obtained in 2010–2012 from the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-to-be (N = 61) and in 2020–2022 from the Heartland Study (N = 91). Specific gravity-standardized concentration levels for each analyte were compared between the cohorts, assuming data are lognormal and specifying values below the LOD as left-censored. The proportion of pregnant individuals with dicamba detected above the LOD significantly increased from 28% (95% CI: 16%, 40%) in 2010–2012 to 70% (95% CI: 60%, 79%) in 2020–2022, and dicamba concentrations also significantly increased from 0.066 μg/L (95% CI: 0.042, 0.104) to 0.271 μg/L (95% CI: 0.205, 0.358). All pregnant individuals from both cohorts had 2,4-D detected. Though 2,4-D concentration levels increased, the difference was not significant (p-value = 0.226). Reliance on herbicides has drastically increased in the last ten years in the United States, and the results obtained in this study highlight the need to track exposure and impacts on adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Keywords: pesticide; exposure; 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid; human biomonitoring You can read the paper here.

  • Crop-killing Weeds Advance Across US as Herbicides Lose Effectiveness

    Farmers say they are losing their battle with weeds at a time when growers are grappling with inflation and extreme weather linked to climate change. Crop-killing weeds such as kochia are advancing across the U.S. northern plains and Midwest, in the latest sign that weeds are developing resistance to chemicals faster than companies including Bayer and Corteva  can develop new ones to fight them. In many cases weeds are developing resistance against multiple herbicides, scientists said. Read the Reuters report here.  Read an earlier post by the HHRA board chair on the problem of resistant weeds here.

  • Heartland Health Research Alliance logo Help Lead this Worthy Cause: The HHRA is Recruiting Board Members

    We are publicly recruiting for board positions to ensure that we move beyond our immediate networks and honor our ongoing commitment to creating a board that is diverse in its composition, inclusive in its culture, and equity-focused in its approach to how it views its mission, its work, and the communities it serves. Our board members are the fiduciaries who steer the HHRA toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the HHRA has adequate resources to advance its mission. The Heartland Health Research Alliance (HHRA) is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2020 and dedicated to creating a new future in which cultivating health is the priority of farming. Our mission is to help inform the decisions shaping agriculture by advancing research on the health effects of food and farming. The HHRA seeks to fill vacancies on its board with qualified volunteers who, in addition to the standard roles and responsibilities (see below) of a board member, will be active advocates and ambassadors for the organization. Preferred qualifications 1. Professional experience in public health, medical research, epidemiology, toxicology, or organic farming, 2. A network or experience, or both, that may facilitate grant seeking and fundraising. 3. Commitment to the scientific method and the integrity of research. Essential information 1. The board of the HHRA is a volunteer board. 2. Each term is for three years, to which members can be re-elected once. 3. The board meets four times a year via the Internet. Expectations The HHRA expects each board member to honor the HHRA values and mission, act in the best interest of the HHRA, prepare for the board meetings by reading the agenda and reports, participate in the board meetings, and identify personal and professional connections for HHRA fundraising, grant-seeking, and policy influence. Process 1. To apply to volunteer, please send your CV and a one-page cover letter providing your name, contact information, and a description of either which of the preferred qualifications (above) you will bring to the HHRA or how your unique qualifications can help the HHRA.  Send these materials to Russell K. King, HHRA executive director, at . 2. Qualified applications will be reviewed by the current board, which will vote on whether to seat a volunteer as a member. (The next board meeting is in February 2024.) 3. The recruiting process will remain open until all seats are filled. Standard board member duties 1) Board members should advance the mission of the organization Overall, spreading awareness for your mission will promote growth and empower your team to flourish in its work. 2) Board members should prepare for and attend board meetings Review the agenda in advance. Everyone should understand all matters on the agenda heading into the meeting. Participation in discussions is a big part of why you choose someone for a role on the board. Fulfilling these duties is part of acting in good faith for any board member. 3) Board members hire, set compensation for, support, and collaborate with the executive director Hiring and supporting the executive director is one of the most important board member responsibilities.  The executive director is the professional hired to as bring nonprofit leadership and operational expertise to the HRRA’s daily operations and to advice and educate the board on matters relating to nonprofit governance and operations, so this board role is crucial to the organization’s health. 4) Board members are responsible for recruiting new members Drawing on your professional and personal networks, seek new members who have needed skills and qualities that are missing from the current board. 5) Every board member must fulfill three specific core legal responsibilities. Duty of Care Attending meetings and actively participating. Communicating with the executive director and other board members. Following through on assignments.. Supporting programs. Duty of Loyalty Support HHRA’s mission. Be a loyal ambassador for HHRA’s cause. All activities and decisions should be in the best interest of the organization, not in the best interest of the individual board member. Support the HHRA executive director. Duty of Obedience Adhere to HHRA’s bylaws, policies, and board decisions.

  • Fairness and Trust in Organic Food Supply Chains

    From the British Food Journal Findings show that perceived distributional, procedural and interactional fairness mutually interact with the perceived trustworthiness of business partners and that both contribute to building personal, organisational and institutional trust. Qualitative data support the conceptual model and show that trust is a valuable relational resource that affects relationship quality and the willingness to collaborate and to take risks in times of uncertainty.   More here.

  • Heartland Study Methods Paper Published in Chemosphere

    A methods paper is about our flagship study is being published in Chemosphere, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published since 1972 by Elsevier. It publishes both original research and review articles in environmental chemistry.  We extend our thanks to the authors: Jessica Larose, Jean-François Bienvenu, Patrick Bélanger, Éric Gaudreau, Yunpeng Yu, and David M. Guise.  

HHRA Paper Quantifies Impact of Organic Farming on Pesticide Use and Dietary Risks

Jul 6th, 2021
Jul 6th, 2021
A new HHRA paper highlights the need to convert cropland growing fruits and vegetables to organic in order to reduce consumer's dietary risk from pesticide residues.

A new HHRA paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Agronomy reports significant impacts of organic farming systems on pesticide use and the risks stemming from pesticide residues on food.

“Organic Farming Lessens Reliance on Pesticides and Promotes Public Health by Lowering Dietary Risks” was co-authored by HHRA Executive Director Chuck Benbrook, and research partners Susan Kegley, and Brian Baker. Published on June 22nd, this is an open-access, free to download paper accessible via our bibliography.

Lead author Dr. Benbrook has published several papers over three decades comparing pesticide use and risks in organic versus conventional foods but states that “This paper contains the most rigorous, data-driven comparison of pesticide use and dietary risks on organic fields producing a give crop compared to nearby conventionally managed fields. Our findings are encouraging.”

The 36-page paper provides detailed comparisons of pesticide use on organic farms compared to nearby conventional farms growing the same crop. The team developed a methodology to extract the data needed to make such comparisons from the detailed Pesticide Use Reports collected and made available by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The EPA has approved just 91 active ingredients for use as pesticides on organic farms (see Table S.1 in the paper’s supplemental tables for the full list). Many of these are common ingredients found in many households, such as isopropyl alcohol, soap, vinegar, and clove oil. Meanwhile there are over 1,200 pesticide active ingredients approved for use on conventional farms.

Tables in the paper compare pesticide use on nearby organic and conventional carrot, grape, and tomato fields in selected California counties. “The techniques we developed to do this work made it possible to use the California pesticide use data to easily find organically managed fields and compare pesticide use between organic and conventional crops in the same county,” according to co-author Dr. Susan Kegley.

In a many cases in California, the same grower manages fields producing the same crop under these two management systems. The team developed methods to identify such fields and compare the pesticides used on each, as shown in the interactive graphic below.

The detailed comparisons of the residues and risk levels in organic and conventional foods were done using HHRA’s Dietary Risk Index (DRI) system. The data sources and methodologies embedded in that system are described in a 2020 paper in the journal Environmental Health.

You can access a series of interactive tables reporting DRI system results comparing residues and risks in organic and conventional foods on Hygeia Analytics. These tables draw on pesticide residue data from the USDA and pesticide toxicity data from the EPA.

A key conclusion of the team’s analysis is that by converting the 1.2% of US cropland growing fruits and vegetables to organic production, the nation’s farmers could dramatically reduce pesticide dietary exposures and risk.

“We have empirical evidence to support what organic farmers have known all along. It is possible to grow high quality crops with biological and cultural practices, instead of relying primarily on toxic pesticides,” says co-author Dr. Brian Baker. Doing so will lead to substantial public health gains, especially for pregnant women, infants, and children, and those people applying pesticides and exposed to them occupationally in or near farm fields.

Our blog “Take Home Messages in ‘Organic Farming Lessens Reliance on Pesticides and Promotes Public Health by Lowering Dietary Risks‘” provides a summary of the new paper and its key implications and recommendations.

Additional Resources:

  • Blog series on Hygeia Anaytics – “Special Coverage on Organic Integrity.” This series of blogs includes substantial discussion and information on pesticide residues and risk in organic food, and steps the organic produce industry and leading farmers are taking to assure compliance with National Organic Program rules.
  • To hear what a farmer has to say, see the “Organic Food and Pesticide Residues, One Grower’s Perspective” blog by Larry Jacobs, which discusses current challenges — and concerns — in the organic produce industry.
Back To Top