🍎 The case for the effects of organic/regenerative agriculture/agroecology on soil health, environment/climate and human health (including human gut microbiome)

There are likely to be additional resources in other areas of this sustainability section that also showcase the benefits of organic/regenerative/agroecological farming methods on the human and planetary health.  Please be sure to look through other resource areas as well.

  • Banerjee, S., van der Heijden, M.G.A. Soil microbiomes and one health. Nat Rev Microbiol (2022).
    • The concept of one health highlights that human health is not isolated but connected to the health of animals, plants and environments. 
    • In this Review, we demonstrate that soils are a cornerstone of one health and serve as a source and reservoir of pathogens, beneficial microorganisms and the overall microbial diversity in a wide range of organisms and ecosystems.
  • BaraĹ„ski M, Ĺšrednicka-Tober D, Volakakis N, et al. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: A systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014;112(5):794-811. 
    • Found significantly higher levels of these phytochemicals in addition to vitamins C and E. In comparison, pesticide residues and toxic metal content was four times as high in conventional fruits.
    •  Researcher state that shifting to organic farming can increase the phytochemical content in produce to the current equivalent of eating 2-4 portions of fruits and vegetables!
  • Blum WEH, Zechmeister-Boltenstern S, Keiblinger KM. Does Soil Contribute to the Human Gut Microbiome?. Microorganisms. 2019;7(9):287. Published 2019 Aug 23.
  • Brooke, L; Johnson, A.  Grow Organic: The Climate, Health, and Economic Case for Expanding Organic Agriculture   Natural Resources Defense Council published in partnership with the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University and Californians for Pesticide Reform. Website.  Published  October 27, 2022. Accessed January 2023.  (You can download the report from the website) 
    • Organic agriculture reduces the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of farming by eliminating most fossil fuel–based inputs, and it builds climate resilience by promoting healthy soils, diversifying food crops, and supporting threatened wildlife habitats and biodiversity. 
    • Data show that organic farming emits less nitrous oxide by avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides commonly used in conventional agriculture, and organic livestock production leads to fewer methane emissions compared with conventional concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).  
    • Research demonstrates that organic agriculture benefits our health by dramatically reducing exposure to agricultural pollution in air, water, and food. Farmworkers and others working and living near conventional farms suffer serious acute and chronic health ailments associated with pesticide exposure, and studies indicate that pesticide residues in our food may be harmful to consumer health.
  • Dixon KA, Michelsen MK, Carpenter CL. Modern Diets and the Health of Our Planet: An Investigation into the Environmental Impacts of Food Choices. Nutrients. 2023; 15(3):692.
    • The diets found to have the lowest environmental impacts were the vegan, climatarian, and Mediterranean diets. These low-carbon-footprint diets can likely be attributed to a reduced reliance on ruminant meat (cattle and sheep) and processed food consumption, while diets with high carbon footprints are more dependent on ruminant meat and saturated fat.
    •  Making simple substitutions within each individual’s diet can be advertised as an effective approach to collectively lower the environmental impact in tandem with improving health and longevity.
  • Healthy Soils Are the Basis for Healthy Food Production. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Accessed June 2022. FAO, “Healthy Soils Are the Basis- “, (2020).
  • Hills RD Jr, Pontefract BA, Mishcon HR, Black CA, Sutton SC, Theberge CR. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1613. Published 2019 Jul 16.
  • Hirt H. Healthy soils for healthy plants for healthy humans: How beneficial microbes in the soil, food and gut are interconnected and how agriculture can contribute to human health. EMBO Rep. 2020 Aug 5;21(8):e51069. doi: 10.15252/embr.202051069. Epub 2020 Jul 31. PMID: 32734701; PMCID: PMC7403703.
    • Industrial agriculture requires increasing amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to maintain yield. This seems to be the result and/or the cause of a poor microbial diversity in the soil. Soil erosion and climate change also affect microbial biodiversity and contribute to the loss of large areas of arable land and their microbial populations
    • Since microbes from fruits, salads and vegetables join the human gut microbiome, the plant microbiome can affect the gut microbiome and thereby human health.
  • Johansson E, Hussain A, Kuktaite R, Andersson SC, Olsson ME. Contribution of organically grown crops to human health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(4):3870-3893. Published 2014 Apr 8.
  • Kawano et al. Microbiota imbalance induced by dietary sugar disrupts immune-mediated protection from metabolic syndrome. Volume 185, Issue 19, 15 September 2022, Pages 3501-3519.e20
    • “highlight(s) an elaborate interaction between diet, microbiota, and intestinal immunity in regulation of metabolic disorders”.
  • Lezaks, D; Ellerton, M. The Regenerative Agriculture and Human Health Nexus: Insights from Field to Body:
    • Growing more nutritious food does influence human health. And that this nexus of regenerative agriculture and human health calls for an inclusive movement made up of a diverse group of organizations and leaders working in concert to improve the human condition.
  • Lori M., Symnaczik S., Mäder P., De Deyn G., Gattinger A. Organic farming enhances soil microbial abundance and activity—A meta-analysis and meta-regression. PLoS ONE. 2017;12:e0180442. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180442.
    • An active soil microbiota plays an important role for various soil based ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling,erosion control and pest and disease regulation
    • Overall, we found that organic systems had 32% to 84% greater microbial biomass carbon, microbial biomass nitrogen, total phospholipid fatty-acids, and dehydrogenase, urease and protease activities than conventional systems
  • Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: A comprehensive review. Environmental Health. 2017;16(1)
    • Diet choices and the associated food production methods also have important impacts on environmental sustainability
    • Organic dairy products, and perhaps also meats, have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional products. However, these differences are likely of marginal nutritional significance.
    • Of greater concern is the prevalent use of antibiotics in conventional animal production as a key driver of antibiotic resistance in society; antibiotic use is less intensive in organic production.
    • Overall, this review emphasises several documented and likely human health benefits associated with organic food production, and application of such production methods is likely to be beneficial within conventional agriculture, e.g., in integrated pest management.
  • Montgomery d et al, Soil Health and Nutrient Density: Beyond Organic vs. Conventional Farming: Front. Sustain. Food Syst., 04 November 2021
  • Montgomery DR, BiklĂ© A, Archuleta R, Brown P, Jordan J. 2022. Soil health and nutrient density: preliminary comparison of regenerative and conventional farming. PeerJ 10:e12848
  • Moyer J, Stoll S, Schaeffer Z, et al. THE POWER of the PLATE: The Case for Regenerative Organic Agriculture in Improving Human Health. Rodale Institute. 2020.
  • Parizad S, Bera S. The effect of organic farming on water reusability, sustainable ecosystem, and food toxicity [published online ahead of print, 2021 Jul 7]. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021;10.1007/s11356-021-15258-7. doi:10.1007/s11356-021-15258-7
    • Organic farming is one of the best ways that does not only reduce the deterioration of water quality but also decrease food toxicity.
    • Fields that are organically managed continuously for years have fewer pest populations and were attributed to increased biodiversity and abundance of multi-trophic interactions as well as to changes in plant metabolites.
  • Puigbo et al. Does Glyphosate Affect the Human Microbiota? Life 2022, 12(5), 707;
    • Our results demonstrate that more than one-half of human microbiome are intrinsically sensitive to glyphosate.
  • Reganold JP, Wachter JM. Organic Agriculture in the twenty-first century. Nature Plants. 2016;2(2).   
  • Ruuskanen et al. Ecosystem consequences of herbicides: the role of microbiome Trends in Ecology & Evolution. Published: October 13,  2022
    • The changes in soil microbiome are likely to influence key nutrient cycling and plant–soil processes. Herbicide-altered microbiome affects plant and animal performance and can influence trophic interactions such as herbivory and pollination.
  • Sciligo, A et al. Local diversification enhances pollinator visitation to strawberry and may improve pollination and marketability  Front. Sustain. Food Syst., 22 August 2022 Sec. Agroecology and Ecosystem Services
    • “These results suggest that both polyculture and semi-natural habitat cover support more abundant and diverse pollinator communities, and that ambient levels of pollinator visitation to strawberry provide an important crop pollination service by improving berry marketability”
  • Sharpe RM, Gustafson L, Hewitt S, Kilian B, Crabb J, Hendrickson C, Jiwan D, Andrews P, Dhingra A. Concomitant phytonutrient and transcriptome analysis of mature fruit and leaf tissues of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L. cv. Oregon Spring) grown using organic and conventional fertilizer. PLoS One. 2020 Jan 13;15(1):e0227429.
  •  Seufert, V., & Ramankutty, N. (2017). Many shades of gray-The context-dependent performance of organic  agriculture. Science advances, 3(3), e1602638.
    • Lower yields can range depending on the situation and they say it’s possible to see a lower yield that’s only 5-9% less than the traditional counterpart. This same study also found that it can be a larger amount of 30-40% less of what the organic crops are producing. It’s fascinating that there can be such a wide range of yields with organic depending on the conditions
  • Vigar V, Myers S, Oliver C, Arellano J, Robinson S, Leifert C. A systematic review of organic versus conventional food consumption: Is there a measurable benefit on human health? Nutrients. 2019;12(1):7. doi:10.3390/nu12010007.
    • “Significant positive outcomes were seen in longitudinal studies where increased organic intake was associated with reduced incidence of infertility, birth defects, allergic sensitisation, otitis media, pre-eclampsia, metabolic syndrome, high BMI, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”
    •  “However, a growing number of important findings are being reported from observational research linking demonstrable health benefits with organic food consumption.”
  • Wittwer, R. A., Bender, S. F., Hartman, K., Hydbom, S., Lima, R. A. A., Loaiza, V., Nemecek, T., Oehl, F., Olsson, P. A., Petchey, O., Prechsl, U. E., Schlaeppi, K., Scholten, T., Seitz, S., Six, J., & van der Heijden, M. G. A. (2021). Organic and conservation agriculture promote ecosystem multifunctionality. Science advances, 7(34), eabg6995.
  • Zhang et al.Exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides and risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma: A meta-analysis and supporting evidence.Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research Volume 781, July–September 2019, Pages 186-206
    • Our current meta-analysis of human epidemiological studies suggests a compelling link between exposures to GBHs and increased risk for NHL.



Additional Resources to Explore

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