Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Kristin Schafer's blog

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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.

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Mother takes on Monsanto, wins global prize

Hats off to this mother of three who got fed up and took charge. Thirteen years ago, Sofía Gatica's newborn died of kidney failure after being exposed to pesticides in the womb. After the despair came anger, then a fierce determination to protect the children in her community and beyond.

Today, she's one of six grassroots leaders from around the world receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize, in recognition of her courageous — and successful — efforts.

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Low doses matter hugely, say scientists

It's been the official mantra of pesticide companies for decades: "The dose makes the poison." While it makes intuitive sense — you'd think that the more of a chemical you're exposed to, the sicker you'll get — the science has, in fact, been saying otherwise for years.

A team of 12 scientists recently released a report calling on EPA to completely revamp the way they evaluate chemicals, to better reflect this now fully understood reality: Tiny amounts of certain chemicals can have devastating effects on human health.

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When IQs fall

In the past year, there have been a slew of studies showing that when a child is exposed to certain pesticides — whether before birth or while eating conventionally-grown food — his or her IQ may drop. Sometimes by several points.

But what does this really mean? As a society, what might the impacts be? In short, should we be worried? The answer, according to one recent study, is an emphatic and sobering "yes".

Kristin Schafer

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