skip to Main Content
HHRA Executive Director Chuck Benbrook with his brand-new grandson Luca, born December 16, 2021.

Archived Blog Posts
  • A man spraying pesticides California’s Bold Plan to Transform Pest Management Systems is Long on Ambition and Light on Details

    By: Chuck Benbrook, HHRA ED By: Mark Lipson, HHRA Director of Policy and Regulatory Engagement We welcomed the invitation from California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation for members of the public to offer comments and guidance as the State begins to take concrete actions needed to achieve the goals set forth in the new report Sustainable Pest Management: A Roadmap for California. Reviewing the 94-page Roadmap report reminded us how many constituencies, forces, and factors are pushing and pulling farmers, pest managers, and government agencies in multiple directions that are rarely aligned. This Roadmap document describes a very different pest management future that will hopefully become the “de facto” way pests are managed on and off the farm by 2050. If successful by 2050, prevention-based biointensive Integrated Pest Management (bioIPM) will be the norm and there will be minimal if any use of high-risk “Priority Pesticides”. Some thirty-two years ago, DPR hired Chuck Benbrook to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of DPR’s programs and policies to assist in the integration of DPR into the newly-formed Cal-EPA. The resulting report, Challenge and Change: A Progressive Approach to Pesticide Regulation in California, came out in March of 1993. It provides dozens of recommendations intended to do many of the same things that the 2023 Roadmap report hopes to bring within reach. The fact that most pest management systems in California have become more, not less reliant on pesticides over the last 30 years suggests that DPR’s and CDFA’s efforts to achieve Roadmap goals are going to entail heavy lifting, mostly uphill. For this reason in HHRA’s comments, Mark and Chuck describe the nature and substantial scope of changes in laws and policy that will be required to track progress toward Roadmap goals and hopefully, someday, achieve them.

Hard Lessons and Aspirations: A Look Toward 2022

by Charles Benbrook | Jan 4th, 2022
by Charles Benbrook | Jan 4th, 2022
HHRA Executive Director Chuck Benbrook with his brand-new grandson Luca, born December 16, 2021.

I suspect few will be sorry to see 2021 give way to the new year. 2021 was a rough year in so many ways, driven by two mega-events: the pandemic; and the rise of cultural and political rifts and tension in our public squares, coffee shops, and around our dinner tables. Unfortunately, both will carry over into the new year, future unknown.

But we can at least hope, and work to assure that lessons learned in 2021 inspire us, individually and collectively, to live smarter, do better, and not put off things we know we should attend to.

Our work in HHRA will remain focused on the public health and environmental consequences of the ways crops are grown and animals raised in America, with special focus on the tough time farmers in the Midwest are having managing weeds.

Despite the fact that farmers are doing more and paying much more in their efforts to control weeds, the weeds are winning.

Many farmers and most pesticide industry leaders still believe farmers need to do more of the same, but with greater precision, assistance from “big data” and artificial intelligence, and ideally, less interference from government. Others feel the time has come to shift gears, and to help farmers back off the herbicide treadmill they are now trapped on.

HHRA is working to convince anyone who will listen that the best way to help farmers back off the herbicide treadmill is reducing reliance on the now 800-pound hammer in the toolbox — herbicides — through more creative and systematic use of “many little hammers.”

Let’s remember, Mother Nature drives this bus. Resistant weeds are like climate change, it took a long time for these problems to become acute, and it will take steady and clear-headed effort, and deep systemic change over many years to stabilize the climate and push resistant weeds into the rearview mirror.

And in responding to both of these challenges, the longer society puts off needed change, the more deeply the next generation will regret our hesitancy to harvest low-hanging fruit and stop making matters worse.

The goal of HHRA’s ongoing research is focused on assuring that weed management system changes are made with the benefit of solid understanding of the public health consequences of change or its absence, and especially the consequences for pregnant women, infants, and children. Children like my new grandson Luca, who joined the family in mid December.

Our flagship project, The Heartland Study, is coming out of its Covid-imposed hiatus and actively enrolling pregnant people. We are collecting and testing urine samples for herbicides in order to more accurately track rising exposures. We are tapping many of the remarkable new tools available to public health scientists to answer the “why” questions.

Why are so many couples struggling to get pregnant and bring a healthy child into the world? Why are so many babies born early, underweight, or saddled with genetic or epigenetic changes that will make it harder for them to learn, stay healthy, and thrive?

Ten years ago, who could have imagined that scientists today would be sequencing the genes in bacteria in a person’s gut to determine whether a specific chemical causes cancer, autism, or bad behavior? And in the case of HHRA’s work, the impacts of glyphosate on the gut microbiome, damage to the liver, and cancer risk.

Thanks to everyone following the work of HHRA, and especially those who have chosen to support our ability to move faster and delve more deeply into how food and farming can support and enhance public health. There is so much more that needs to be done.

Please take a few minutes to review some of the highlights of our work in 2021.

Back To Top