GroundTruth Blog

Kristin Schafer's blog

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.