Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are Pesticides Harming Children’s IQ and Behavior?

Are Pesticides Harming Children’s IQ and Behavior?

By Alice Shabecoff

Alice Shabecoff is the co-author with her husband Philip of Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins Are Making our Children Chronically Ill, Chelsea Green paperback (Random House hardback).

Pesticides can harm your child as much as they hurt insects, leading environmental scientists have discovered. Children exposed either in the womb or during childhood may end up with lowered IQ scores, or ADHD, or other behavioral and emotional problems.

This milestone finding was just reported in separate studies, published simultaneously, from three leading institutes of environmental health science, from New York to California. The institutes all focused on prenatal exposure to one immensely popular kind of pesticides, called organophosphates. Altogether, they have been following and testing about 1,000 pregnant women and their children over more than a decade. In New York City, the families tracked by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Mount Sinai School of Medicine were urban, but, it turned out, they used more of this pesticide inside their apartments to control cockroaches and other pests than all of New York State’s agricultural counties. The School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on farmworker children in the fertile Salinas Valley, our country’s top vegetable-producing region.

Their research found that the higher the mother’s exposure to pesticides, the lower the child’s IQ score once the child reached school age. In the Berkeley study, for example, children with the highest levels of prenatal pesticide exposure tested 7 points lower than children exposed to the least. There was no threshold or base limit of exposure that did not produce an effect. Even by age three, the children showed neurodevelopmental problems. Prenatal exposure was measured by testing the mother’s blood and urine, or by testing the newborn’s umbilical cord blood.

These reports further substantiate a report from Harvard University last year, indicating that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence.

Once upon a time, it was thought that the placenta served as a barrier protecting the fetus from all harm. Now we know that many toxins cross the placenta in strength; and recent science has also discovered that the embryo and fetus, whose bodily defense mechanisms are undeveloped, are particularly vulnerable.

Yet regulation of pesticides has been based on outdated 1990s’ tests that looked only at how these chemicals affect the body and mind of adults. Additionally, it has been discovered that some people (mother and/or baby) have a genetic variation that leaves them with a lower level of certain protective enzymes. However, regulation remains a “one-size-fits-all” business.

Organophosphate pesticides are chemically similar offspring of the chemical warfare agents Germany developed in its pursuit of nerve gas during World War II. They are chemically similar to the chemicals that Saddam Hussein used to kill thousands of Kurds.

This chemical class works by attacking a neurotransmitter in the insect nervous system, getting the system so overexcited that the insects die. But this same neurotransmitter is found throughout the animal kingdom, including in humans, where a chemical assault can impair the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The effect on the prenatal or newborn human brain can be permanent structural damage.

Thanks to the earlier discovery by the three environmental health centers of this danger, the EPA convinced Dow, the manufacturer of the most popular organophosphate, Dursban, to withdraw it from household use in 2001. But Dow (though sued many hundreds of times by families of affected children) maintains that the chemical family poses no threat, and it remains the most favored of all commercially used insecticides. US agribusiness, according to latest figures, from 2007, uses 33 million pounds a year of organophosphates, one-third of all the insecticides applied in this country. That explains why traces of organophosphates were found in the urine of 82 percent of Americans sampled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a few years ago.

Defending this product against the damaging findings of these three current studies, the agribusiness trade organization CropLife America just put out this statement: “Organophosphate insecticides, along with all crop protection products, are an important part of American agriculture and are vital tools for today’s modern farmers. The safety of consumers and growers alike is protected every step of the way, from initial product development to final use.” Indeed, conventional agribusiness depends on the vast use of pesticides along with other harmful tools such as the vast use of antibiotics.

Although the greatest damage from exposure to these toxins takes place while the baby is still in the womb, that doesn’t mean exposure after birth is safe. To the contrary, pesticides have been shown to be harmful throughout childhood (and even later in life, including among farmworkers). Exposed children may have difficulties performing tasks that involve short-term memory, and may show impaired mental development or pervasive mental, social and emotional problems that last throughout their lives.

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One of the saddest stories of childhood contamination tells of the Ebling family, who, with their small son named A.J. and daughter Christina, moved into a new apartment complex in Indiana that had been sprayed repeatedly with Dursban mixed with another pesticide. Both were healthy, normal children when the family moved in; soon they were convulsed by seizures, and today the now-teenage daughter drools, slaps and bites, and has the capacity of a three-year-old, while the boy has an IQ of 44. They are one of the families suing Dow.

The story of organophosphates is really the story of all pesticides. The equivalent of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Ontario, Canada, concludes that there are no pesticides less dangerous than others; they just have different effects on health that take different periods to show up.

Parents can reduce their child’s exposure to pesticides, though it certainly involves efforts on many fronts. In homes with pest problems, sealing up any openings in baseboards and getting rid of food residue does the job and is more effective and less costly than pesticides in controlling cockroaches. Lawns, frequently doused with pesticides and other powerful toxins, can be green with natural care.

Sadly, schools are often the scene of surprisingly heavy doses of pesticides, routinely sprayed in school kitchens, cafeterias, athletic fields, playgrounds and classrooms, many times without notifying parents in advance. But a strong parent movement is incrementally bringing about change.

Above all, what you and your child eat is critical. Nutritious food actually builds a body’s defenses against harm; it can actually turn on genes that prevent diseases. Nutritious is not, however, the norm to many American families. Most conventional diets of fruits, vegetables and juices, and most wheat- or corn-based foods such as pasta, cereal or chips have been found to be both stripped of their nutrients, and, on top of that, routinely doused with organophosphates, weedkillers and other chemicals.

Healthful eating should begin when a couple is trying to conceive or, even better, at least a year before that. Dr. Alex Lu of Harvard University’s School of Public Health explains that preliminary data from animal studies show that the mother’s toxic exposure may cause genetic changes which may lie hidden until they express themselves in her child. So he concludes that the diet of women of childbearing age is of prime importance.

Nutritious, chemical-free food remains critical through pregnancy and breast-feeding, and as the child grows up. If, however, a family has come late in seeing the value of chemical-free food, late is better than never.

A study from Dr. Lu in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington found that an organic diet, when it is launched, can clear pesticides from a child’s body. Of course early exposure may have triggered some harm; but damage is cumulative, so halting the exposure as soon as possible minimizes the toxic burden and offers “dramatic and immediate protective effects,” the researchers conclude.


The three just-released studies were all published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and are available online,

The report from Harvard researchers was published in 2010 in the journal Pediatrics, under the titleAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides, Maryse F. Bouchard, David C. Bellinger, Robert O. Wright, and Marc G. Weisskopf,

Resources for further information and help:

Beyond Pesticides, Inc.,, offers these practical information resources:
—a database of harmful effects of the 48 pesticides most commonly used in schools, School Pesticides.pdf;
—a database of harmful health effects of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides,;
—a chemical-by-chemical database on pesticide hazards,

Farmers Fight Back Against Monsanto – Update

Farmers Fight Back Against Monsanto – Update

Submitted by Lois Rain on August 17, 2011

In March, HFA reported about the large group of family farmers, seed companies, and agricultural organizations and The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filing suit against Monsanto. They were preemptively defending themselves against being sued for patent infringement.

Monsanto filed a motion in July to have the case dismissed, but the plaintiffs, the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, fought to keep the case open. They filed an amici brief. More details and updates follow below.

~Health Freedoms

Related: Farmers Launch Preemptive Strike Against Monsanto

Farmers Defend Right to Protect Themselves From Monsanto Patents

Farmers and Seed Distributors Defend Right to Protect Themselves From Monsanto Patents

Organizations File Amici to Defend Plaintiffs’ Right to Trial and Respond to Monsanto’s Attempt to Dismiss Case

New York – August 11, 2011 – The 83 family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed filed papers in federal court today defending their right to seek legal protection from the threat of being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) represents the plaintiffs in the suit, titled Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association(OSGATA), et al. v. Monsanto and pending in the Southern District of New York. Today’s filings respond to a motion filed by Monsanto in mid-July to have the case dismissed. In support of the plantiffs’ right to bring the case, 12 agricultural organizations also filed a friend-of-the-court amici brief.

“Rather than give a straight forward answer on whether they would sue our clients for patent infringement if they are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed, Monsanto has instead chosen to try to deny our clients the right to receive legal protection from the courts,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “Today’s filings include sworn statements by several of the plaintiffs themselves explaining to the court how the risk of contamination by transgenic seed is real and why they cannot trust Monsanto to not use an occurrence of contamination as a basis to accuse them of patent infringement.”

It is now virtually impossible for a U.S. farmer to grow crops of their choosing (corn, soybeans, canola, etc.) and remain GMO-free because of the numerous biological and human means by which seeds can spread. “Given the difficulties in minimizing GM contamination farmers must make numerous decisions about which steps are worthwhile for them and which steps are not. They are not able to make these decisions based on their own and their customers‘ interests, but must instead make these decisions with the threat of litigation from a giant corporation looming over their head,” Spiegel writes in the amici brief. “The constant threat of a patent infringement suit by Monsanto creates significant, unquantifiable costs for Plaintiff farmers and similarly situated farmers.” The plaintiffs can do everything possible to maintain non-contaminated seeds, and will very likely still become contaminated, and be placed under the threat of a lawsuit. As Monsanto’s domination of the seed industry grows, and the winds continue to disperse pollen from their GMO laced crops, the likelihood of contamination and lawsuits only increases.

Monsanto has stated that they would not sue farmers who were “inadvertently” contaminated or farmers whose crops contain “trace amounts” of GMO, however they have refused to sign a simple covenant not to sue, that would bring an effective end to the lawsuit.

Monsanto’s track record makes it clear that Monsanto intends to continue threatening and harassing farmers. “Monsanto has undertaken one of the most aggressive patent assertion campaigns in history,” wrote Ravicher. Monsanto admits to filing 128 lawsuits against farmers from 1997-2010, settling out of court with 700 others for an undisclosed amount. As Spiegel writes, “The passage of time and natural biological processes will inevitably lead to higher contamination levels, at which point Monsanto will have created a target-rich environment for its patent enforcement activities.”

Plaintiffs Bryce Stephens, who farms in Kansas and serves as vice president of OSGATA, Frederick Kirschenmann, who farms in North Dakota, C.R. Lawn, who is founder and co-owner of Fedco Seeds in Maine, Don Patterson of Virginia and Chuck Noble, who farms in South Dakota, each submitted declarations to the court describing their personal experiences with the risk of contamination by genetically modified seed and why those experiences have forced them to bring the current suit. As summarized by the accompanying brief filed by PUBPAT on the plaintiffs’ behalf, “Monsanto’s acts of widespread patent assertion and the plaintiffs’ ever growing risk of contamination create a real, immediate and substantial dispute between them.”

In their brief, the amici describe some of the harmful effects of genetically modified seed and how easily GMOs can contaminate an organic or conventional farmer’s land. The organizations filing the amici brief were Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Ecological Farmers of Ontario, Fair Food Matters, International Organic Inspectors Association, Michigan Land Trustees, Natural Environment Ecological Management, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Association, Organic Council of Ontario, Slow Food USA, and Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association.

The brief filed by the plaintiffs in opposition to Monsanto’s motion to dismiss is available here.
The amici brief in support of the plaintiffs is available here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our Oceans Are Dying - 90% of Big Fish Are GONE - What Are WE Doing?

Our waters - our salvation - WE ARE NOT SEPARATE - the flow of brooks, streams, rivers, seas and our GREAT OCEAN - no different than the flow of LIFE itself... Pay heed - join the many movements, organizations, voices that hear the pleas of our waters divine... become the roar of waters pure!!

"Monsanto's 5 Most Dubious Contributions to the Planet"

Monsanto's 5 Most Dubious Contributions to the Planet

There's a whole lot more than just GMO seeds. Let's take a quick look at some of the biotech giant's most dubious contributions to society over the past century.
August 12, 2011 |

You keep trying to make us believe you are "committed to sustainable agriculture" with your canny advertisements on American Public Media, even as you force-feed farmers your lab-grown Frankenseeds that expire every year (which are, let's be honest, opposite of sustainable).
But we shouldn't be surprised by the mixed message, should we? After all, you've been doing this for decades. With long-running corporate sponsorships, like Disney's Tomorrowland, building reserves of goodwill as you spray us with DDT, it's clear you're entitled to send out products into the world with nary an environmental or health concern—just as long as you spend a bit of that hard-earned cash convincing us otherwise.

On that note, let's take a quick look at some of the biotech giant's most dubious contributions to society over their past century in business.

1. Saccharin

Monsanto burst onto the scene in 1901 with the artificial sweetener saccharin, which it sold to Coca-Cola and canned food companies as a sugar replacement.

But as early as 1907, the health effects of the sweetener were being questioned by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists.

"Everyone who ate that sweet [canned] corn was deceived," said Harvey Wiley, the first commissioner of the FDA. "He thought he was eating sugar, when in point of fact he was eating a coal tar product totally devoid of food value and extremely injurious to health."

After enjoying decades of unfettered consumption, the sweetener was slapped with a warning label in the '70s when it was found to cause cancer in lab rats.

A subsequent three-decade effort by Monsanto to reverse the decision finally won out in 2001. After all, how could a product derived from coal tar not be safe for consumption?

2) Polystyrene

By the '40s, Monsanto had moved on to oil-based plastics, including polystyrene foam (also known as styrofoam).

As most of us are aware by now, polystyrene foam is an environmental disaster. Not only is there nothing out there that biodegrades it, it breaks off into tiny pieces that choke animals, harm marine life, and release cancer-causing benzene into the environment for a thousand years or more.

"Polystyrene foam products rely on nonrenewable sources for production, are nearly indestructible and leave a legacy of pollution on our urban and natural environments," said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin in 2007. "If McDonald's could see the light and phase out polystyrene foam more than a decade ago, it's about time San Francisco got with the program."

Despite the ovewhelming evidence against it, the noxious containers are still pervasive elsewhere around the country. Amazingly, they were even voted to be reintroduced into House cafeterias by Republicans earlier this year.

3) Agent Orange

First developed as an herbicide and defoliant, Agent Orange was used infamously as a military weapon by the U.S. Army during Vietnam to remove the dense foliage of the jungle canopy.

In the process, they dumped over 12 million gallons of the potent chemical cocktail—described by Yale biologist Arthur Galston as "perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man"—over towns, farms, and water supplies during a nine-year period.

"When [military scientists] initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide ... ," said Dr. James R. Clary, a former government scientist with the Chemical Weapons Branch. "However, because the material was to be used on the ‘enemy,’ none of us were overly concerned."

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that lack of concern led to 4.8 million exposures to the herbicide, along with 400,000 deaths and disfigurements and 500,000 babies born with birth defects.

4) Bovine Growth Hormone

Did you know the United States is the only developed nation that permits the sale of milk from cows given artificial growth hormones?

With the lone exception of Brazil, the rest of the developed world—including all 27 countries of the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia—has banned growth hormone use in milk destined for human consumption.

Why all the lact-haters? Milk derived from hormone-injected cows shows higher levels of cancer-causing hormones and lower nutritional value, leading even the most stubborn U.S. courts to rule in favor of separate labels for hormone-free milk.

"The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking without apparent harm for 2,000 years," said Harvard scientist Ganmaa Davaasambuu. "The milk we drink today may not be nature's perfect food."

According to the Center for Food Safety, thanks to increased consumer demand (and certain movies), approximately 60 percent of milk in the U.S. is rBST-free today.

5) Genetically-Modified Seeds

Not content to do mere incidental damage to the environment, Monsanto decided to get to the root of the matter in the '80s: seeds.

But with much fuss being made over the company's aggressive scare tactics and rampant mass-patenting, the biotech giant has, true to form, fought back with a multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising campaign featuring smiling children and making outlandish claims that "biotech foods could help end world hunger."

"Unless I'm missing something," wrote Michael Pollan in The New York Times Magazine, "the aim of this audacious new advertising campaign is to impale people like me—well-off first-worlders dubious about genetically engineered food—on the horns of a moral dilemma...If we don't get over our queasiness about eating genetically modified food, kids in the Third World will go blind."

What's clear is that no matter what its justification, Monsanto is a) never giving away all these seeds for free; and b) rendering them sterile so that farmers need to re-up every year, making it difficult to believe that the company could possibly have the planet's best intentions at heart.

"By peddling suicide seeds, the biotechnology multinationals will lock the world's poorest farmers into a new form of genetic serfdom," says Emma Must of the World Development Movement. "Currently 80 percent of crops in developing countries are grown using farm-saved seed."

"Being unable to save seeds from sterile crops could mean the difference between surviving and going under."

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