Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Kristin Schafer's blog

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Pass the (pesticide-free) green beans, please!

Like others across the country, this Thursday I'll be joining extended family and friends to celebrate each other and the earth's bounty. I look forward to meeting up with cousins coming to town from distant cities, and enjoying the yummy dishes we'll all contribute to the feast.

I'm also hoping we keep the acephate, methamidophos and chlorothalonil off the menu. (Easy for me to say, right?) Sadly, according to government testing, these hard-to-pronounce pesticides are among those commonly found on green beans. And they're not good for you.

Kristin Schafer
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Talking about kids' health

We're excited. The report we released earlier this month — A Generation in Jeopardy — is getting people talking about how pesticides are harming our children, and what we can do about it.

A national conversation is a first, important step. Next up? Decisive action that gets harmful pesticides out of kids' daily lives.

Kristin Schafer
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Pediatricians enter the organic debate. Media miss the boat.

Yesterday the American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on organic food. They found that "an organic diet reduces children's exposure to pesticides," and highlighted studies linking pesticides with many of the childhood health harms included in PAN's recent report, A Generation in Jeopardy.

Unfortunately, media coverage of APA's report has been all over the map. And given the power of headlines to shape public debate in ways that directly impact policymakers' appetite for taking on tough issues, this failure on the part of news desks and editors to report the substance of the science accurately is a serious problem.

Kristin Schafer
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Protecting kids from pesticides: It's time.

Today's children are less healthy than they were a generation ago, and science shows that pesticides are contributing to the trend. This is the core finding of PAN's new report, released today with partners in California, Minnesota and Iowa.

As a mom who, like all parents, cares deeply about the health of my kids, I find the report both profoundly disturbing and deeply motivating. As one of the report co-authors, I'm hoping A Generation in Jeopardy will be used to jumpstart a long overdue national conversation about how pesticides are undermining our children's health and intelligence — and how we can do better.

Kristin Schafer
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Baby teeth to provide autism clues

Teeth swiped from tooth fairies could provide important information about the link between chemicals and autism. Researchers are excited.

We already know that timing is a critical piece of the autism/chemical connection. Scientists now say that by grinding up baby teeth, they can accurately measure not only what toxicants children have been exposed to, but precisely when.

Kristin Schafer
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A big step towards stronger chemical policy

Three cheers for sanity on Capitol Hill! For the first time in 36 years, lawmakers voted Wednesday to strengthen the national law governing toxic chemicals. If it keeps moving and becomes law, the bill will tighten the rules governing those 84,000+ substances that make their way into our homes in everything from baby bottles to seat cushions.

True, it was the first of many steps: a committee vote in the Senate. But it's a huge, important move in the right direction — made in the face of strong pushback from the chemical industry. And it's long overdue.

Kristin Schafer
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Rethinking risk

There's an interesting debate emerging in the public health world. It has to do with whether we need to rejigger our thinking about the risks pesticides and other chemicals pose to children's health.

Traditionally, we've had a "disease-oriented" approach, assessing risk based on the severity of a health outcome (think birth defects or cancer). But earlier this month a provocative Environmental Health Perspectives article argued that a "population approach" might be wiser — meaning that even when a health effect is not severe, if it's affecting a huge number of our children (think dropping IQs), we should be paying attention.

Kristin Schafer
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Chemical gene damage carries across generations

Part of my job here at PAN is keeping track of the latest research about how pesticides are harming children’s health. This has kept me too busy of late, as studies seem to be coming fast and furious linking pesticides with childhood asthma, autism, birth defects, cancer and more.

One recent study gave me serious pause. We already understand that some chemicals can change how our genes function; now researchers know that this damage can be passed from one generation to the next. I’m no scientist, but I understand enough to know that compromising the DNA of future generations is not a good idea.

Kristin Schafer
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1 in 54 boys? Time for autism prevention.

If we set our minds to it, we can turn back the rising tide of autism. But it will take the courage to embrace the following common-sense goal, in both policy and practice: Expecting parents and young children should not take in chemical contaminants that are known to harm developing minds.

This week, scientists released a list of exactly which contaminants we're talking about. The top 10 chemicals contributing to autism and learning disabilities include commonly used pesticides, as well as chemicals found in many consumer products. The scientists tell us the list is likely to grow. But for now, it's time to act on what we know.

Kristin Schafer
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Prize-winning mom brings Monsanto battle to White House

Last week was a busy one for Sofía Gatica. On Monday, she won the global Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to protect her children and neighbors from pesticides. On Wednesday, she asked President Obama to investigate Monsanto’s “pesticide poisonings and livelihood harms” in her community and beyond.

It makes perfect sense. After all, both the genetically engineered soy beans that now surround her small Argentine community — and the herbicide those beans are designed to withstand — were produced and aggressively marketed  by a company based right here in the U.S. In St. Louis, Missouri, to be precise.

Kristin Schafer
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