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Backing Off the Herbicide Treadmill: Weed Management at the Intersection of Soil Health, Climate Emergency, Environmental Justice and Human Reproductive Health

December 7, 2021 @ 9:30 am

Join us to explore the intersections of soil health, environmental justice, human reproductive threat and the climate emergency through the lens of extensive and rising herbicide use in US agriculture. Learn about how herbicides like glyphosate have led to widespread community exposures and the overall ramifications to human and environmental health, especially in rural areas where pesticide exposure levels are much higher. We will also discuss the strategic opportunities for tackling herbicide dependence from multiple angles. The opportunity is ripe for shifting and changing policy with a sustained, multidisciplinary approach demonstrating connection between excessive reliance on herbicides and a broad spectrum of collateral damage to our health, the environment and the basis of soil health and fertility.

The Heartland Health Research Alliance (HHRA) is a collaborative of leading scientists, advocates, policy experts, community organizers and public health professionals. HHRA is carrying out, and hopes to expand cutting-edge clinical research essential in understanding how pesticide exposures during pregnancy and as children grow up can trigger adverse birth outcomes and developmental problems, and heighten risk of adult-onset disease. The Heartland Study, HHRA’s flagship project, is a large-scale, multi-disciplinary birth cohort study is quantifying herbicide exposures of expectant mothers across the Corn Belt and upper Mississippi Valley. It is documenting birth outcomes and newborn health, monitoring for linkages between prenatal herbicide exposures to moms and dads, and problem pregnancies, birth defects, epigenetic changes and neurodevelopment. By documenting connections between public health outcomes and soil health, carbon sequestration and climate, carbon/nitrogen cycling, promoting microbiome health via soil health, toxics, environmental justice and changes in land use—this work hopes to leverage transformative policy change in several areas.

We will also discuss the rising reliance on high-risk herbicides in the Midwest, the problems arising as a result, and what needs to change to help farmers back off the herbicide treadmill. The panel will discuss how climate forward farming will have to contend with weed management and will share the status of their ongoing critical study following expectant parents’ herbicide exposures and the health effects in their children. If any of the following issues are of interest, please join us for this important webinar:

  • Depth and breadth of the herbicide-GE seed trap that farmers are massively locked into. The treadmill trap is deeper than ever, and at a tipping point of failure.
  • Shattered premises of pesticide risk assessment and regulation, and consequential widespread, compound harms. The courts are holding the system accountable for catastrophic neglect, but cannot fix problems rooted in outdated laws, policies and business models that promote excessive reliance on pesticides. We’ll discuss the regulatory consequences of Bayer/Monsanto trial evidence, paraquat and chlorpyrifos litigation and the seismic changes needed in how farmers manage pests and regulators mitigate pesticide damage.
  • The contradictions of herbicide dependence for scaling regenerative cropping systems. Focus on carbon-chemistry and soil mechanics is obscuring the biological fundamentals of soil health and ignoring the soil-health deficit due to agricultural chemicals.  
  • Vulnerable communities on the front lines and public health-agriculture organizing in the Upper Midwest. Connecting the dots at the local and regional level for harm reduction, participatory science, environmental justice and public health education/advocacy. Strong local movements have to be a source of and force for solutions.

Moderator: Dr. Urvashi Rangan, PhD Chief Scientist, GRACE Communications Foundation


  • Dr. Chuck Benbrook, ED Heartland Health Research Alliance (HHRA)
  • Audrey Tran Lam, MPH University of Northern Iowa, Farming For Public Health (HHRA Board Member)
  • Zoe Hollomon, Co-Director, Pesticide Action Network
  • Dr. Robin Mesnage, Kings College, London UK, Molecular and Medical Genetics (HHRA Science Advisor)
  • Mark Lipson, Staff Affiliate UC Santa Cruz, Center for Agroecology  (HHRA Consultant)

Sponsored by: Funders for Regenerative Agriculture (FORA), Health & Environmental Funders Network (HEFN), and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF).

Areas of Impact:

Environmental Sustainability  |   Climate Change  |   Soil  |   Farms & Farming Systems  |   Regenerative Agriculture  |   Health  |   Human/Public Health  |   Pesticides  |   Justice

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