Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Kristin Schafer's blog

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Science still catching up on DDT harms

Two recent studies report new evidence of the harms of a very old pesticide.

It's that pesky, persistent and infamous chemical, DDT. Nearly 40 years after its use in agriculture was banned in many countries around the world, it's still present in our environment, food and bodies at levels that harm human health. And children, once again, are especially vulnerable.

Kristin Schafer
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Kids & bees at risk from synthetic 'flower power'

When I worked in Kenya many years ago, I visited a small farm where they processed chrysanthemums for use as a natural pest killer. I vividly remember the powerful, not unpleasant smell rising from the mesh shelves where the flowers were drying in the sun.

You'd think a pesticide based on flowers would be harmless, right? The promoters of synthetic pyrethroids — which mimic the natural pyrethrum extracted from chrysanthemums — certainly want us to think so. But once again, the latest batch of "safer" pesticides are not as harmless as we thought, and pose particular risks to children. Unfortunately, EPA seems to be turning a blind eye to emerging evidence, and is poised to open the floodgates to more pyrethroid products and uses.

Kristin Schafer
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Power on our plates

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she would inspect her friends' strawberries at lunchtime. “No no, you don’t want to eat that,” she would solemnly inform them. “It’s not organic. It might have yucky chemicals on it.”

Yucky chemicals indeed. Studies continue to pile up showing how pesticides on food can be harmful, especially to children's health. As we head into the home stretch of the holiday feast season, I've been thinking hard about the powerful ripple effects of our food choices. Turns out, what we eat matters. A lot.

Kristin Schafer
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Kids' health researchers talk turkey

At an all-day seminar last week, I listened to university researchers discuss this startling question: Are we poisoning our children?

Quite a provocative topic — some might even say alarmist. Yet scientist after scientist got up to the podium and presented hard data linking pesticides and other chemicals to learning disabilities, asthma, early puberty, childhood cancer and more.

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Rivers & fish win policy battle — for now

As of this week, it looks like our rivers, streams and lakes — and the critters who live in them — will be a little more protected from pesticides.

Unless, that is, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and others representing agribusiness interests manage to undo EPA’s court-ordered efforts to better protect the nation’s waterways from pesticide pollution. Roberts and company are pursuing every legislative hat trick in the book. But so far, cleaner water and healthier fish are coming out ahead.

Kristin Schafer
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Pink ribbons for prevention: It's time.

We've come through yet another pink-ribboned October. It's hard to miss the symbol of breast cancer awareness, it's on everything from perfume packaging to baby bottles to fast food takeout cups.

The thing is, I'm pretty sure we don't need reminding that breast cancer's a problem. If you haven't gone through the battle yourself, odds are you've supported someone — friend, sister, mother, daughter, partner — who has. We're plenty aware. Now it's time to make October's pink ribbons all about what we can do to prevent this devastating disease.

Kristin Schafer
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Sneak attack on pesticide law foiled — for now

Last week, our national pesticide laws were the target of a sneak attack. An amendment that would have stripped EPA's power to protect our nation's waterways was attached to — of all things — the completely unrelated China Currency bill.

If the stakes weren't so high, it would be laughable. Attached as an amendment to what? Thanks in no small part to hundreds of outraged phone calls to the Senate from PAN supporters, the offending amendment was pulled — for the time being.

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Heinz Awards honor humor, poetry & science

From edgy films about sustainable food to intimately personal stories about the dangers of chemicals in the womb, this year’s Heinz Award winners bring a powerful blend of poetry, science and humor to their work. 

Since 1994, this award has honored people doing extraordinary things in an area important to the late Senator John Heinz. This year’s winners are working to protect our environment, and they're doing it with creative flare.

Kristin Schafer
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If it smells like a rat...

There's good news and bad news on the pesticide front this week. Let's take the good news first: A sting operation in New York City got 6,000+ packages of dangerous, illegal rat poison off shop shelves. Hats off to the public servants who got this done!

The bad news comes in two parts: First, the fact that products like this can slip through the cracks of our pesticide control system is downright frightening. And second, industry lawyers are busily weakening one of the few tools EPA officials have to quickly pull pesticide products from the market when they're found to be harmful. Really guys?

Kristin Schafer
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Let's get this brain toxin off the menu

As parents, we have plenty on our minds as we settle into a new school year — new teachers, carpools, sibling rivalry — the list goes on. We really shouldn't have to add this: apples and peaches we're packing in our kids' lunchbags may expose them to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to lower IQs and increase risk of ADHD. I'm sorry, what??

If you ask me, the following scenario makes much more sense: Fruits and veggies help make kids healthy and smart. Farming with chemicals like chlorpyrifos that harm children is unthinkable. And what we pack for lunch doesn't risk damage to our child's nervous system.

Kristin Schafer

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