Tyrone Hayes, groundbreaking biologist and activist, to keynote The Organic Center’s annual benefit

Trailblazing biologist and activist Tyrone Hayes will be the keynote speaker at The Organic Center’s 17th Annual Benefit Dinner in Anaheim on March 4.

Dr. Hayes, a professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley, is known for his groundbreaking work on the impacts of the herbicide atrazine on amphibians, and his advocacy for transparency about the use of environmental chemicals and the effects they have on our health.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Hayes as our keynote speaker,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center. “His work has been critical in understanding the negative impacts of pesticides on our environment. His courage in speaking out for transparency on the chemicals that are allowed to be used and his willingness to bring to the forefront important issues like environmental justice are an inspiration to all.”

"It is my honor to be a part of such an important event and I am happy that my work may make a difference,” said Hayes. “I am proud that I am not just another academic scientist whose work just sits in a book somewhere on a library shelf.”

Hayes’s important research has shown that atrazine disrupts the hormones of male frogs, causing de-masculinization and chemical castration. His work has also been foundational in looking at the environmental impacts of pesticide runoff.

Atrazine is the second-most widely used chemical herbicide in the U.S., second only after glyphosate. Estimates are that 80 million pounds of atrazine are applied to U.S. soils every year. Other studies have linked exposure to atrazine to hormone imbalances in humans, increased risks of certain kinds of cancer, and interference with healthy fetal development. Atrazine degrades slowly in soil and often washes into streams and lakes, and is one of the most common contaminants of drinking water.

Boyhood curiosity becomes life’s work

Hayes has liked frogs and tadpoles ever since he was a little boy in South Carolina. That curiosity led him to the field of biology and ultimately to the study of the impacts of atrazine on amphibians. Learning more about atrazine and the effects of agricultural chemicals in general changed his life.

“We now know that your children will be exposed to over 300 synthetic chemicals before they leave the womb and most of them we have no idea of what the biological impact is,” Hayes said in a recent TED talk. “For atrazine we do know from rats, which are a proxy for us, that if you give rats atrazine, an EPA lab showed those rats are more likely to have an abortion. Of those rats that don’t abort, the sons are born with prostate disease. Of those rats that don’t abort, the daughters are born with impaired mammary development such that when they grow up, their offspring experience retarded growth and development. These studies made me realize that I can’t just be a little boy who likes frogs.”

Hayes doesn’t try to fit into the general mold of a university scientist, and it’s this uniqueness, force of personality, and his deep passion and knowledge about his work that have attracted a national following, inside and outside of the academic scientific community.

A celebration of organic and science, food and friends…and a free trip to Australia!

The annual event is the single biggest fundraising event for The Organic Center. It’s the largest business networking dinner and the biggest organic dinner party at the Natural Products Expo West trade show. It brings together hundreds of organic visionaries, activists and businesses to enjoy an all-organic feast and spotlight the latest science on the environmental and health benefits of organic food and farming.

The 2019 gala drew almost 500 organic visionaries and stakeholders, and raised a record $485,000 to fund organic research and to help advance the projects of the non-profit research and education organization.

Returning this year as guest chef is celebrity chef Megan Mitchell. Mitchell is a seasoned chef and internet personality who's worked with the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, and Tastemade. Last year, she delighted dinner guests with her contemporary cuisine. She will be cooking up an even more delicious all-organic menu for this year’s dinner.

A guest raffle will be held again this year, thanks to the generous contributions of the event’s sponsors. The Organic Center prize giveaway kicks off with a chance to win roundtrip airfare to Australia!

Information on purchasing tickets or sponsoring the event is available here. Purchasing a VIP table or sponsoring the dinner are the main sources of unrestricted funds that enable The Organic Center to continue its work to conduct and convene credible, evidence-based science on the environmental and health effects of organic food and farming.