Saturday, June 19, 2010

Researcher Moms

Not surprisingly, moms are sometimes strongly motivated to do research on pesticides for the sake of their children. I believe that observant parents can see how their children are affected by the world around them, whether for good or ill, and no matter what "science" tells them.

Five years ago, author Audrey Schulman wrote a fascinating (and really well-written) story about her effort to research the nature of the pesticide used on her father's cranberry farm.

Audrey writes, "Three years ago, while my extended family was vacationing at my dad's cranberry farm, he mentioned that one of his fields would be sprayed that evening. There were five children under 10 in the house, and I was eight months pregnant. The field was 100 feet away. I asked my dad about the pesticides, but he said, 'Don't worry. The government runs tests on the chemicals. They make sure they're safe.'"

After some thorough reading at the website of the Environmental Protection Agency, Audrey learned that the safety experiments her father spoke of were all conducted by the manufacturers and then reported--often under strict confidentiality--to the EPA.

So this is what we are up against:

"Although the analyses are performed by professional scientists, the results are often reported only to the EPA. They are rarely published in peer-reviewed journals, and must often be requested through the Freedom of Information Act, a process that can take years."

Audrey concludes:

"The son I was pregnant with when the cranberry bog was sprayed has developed slowly in different ways. He started talking so late the state sent a speech therapist over to tutor him. My older son, who was also there, can't draw. He's 5 now and gets frustrated trying to make even a stick figure. The one time he tried to draw me, it looked like an amoeba with three eyes.

"Does this have to do with drifting pesticides? I can't tell you. None of us will know for sure the effects of these chemicals until there's good science involved -- science that isn't funded and reported by the very people making the chemicals in the first place."

Maybe there is hope for the future, if organizations like the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) can continue to make pesticide research more accessible to the masses. I love the name of their website: What's On My Food

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