California Educator

August 2015

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feedback Remembering Chávez What a great article (in March) on Gordon Williamson, the teacher who marched with César Chávez and taught three of his children in an after-school program. I admire that he continues to be an educator and serve our education system. My best wishes for continual success. David Valenzuela Los Angeles College Faculty Guild (AFT Local 1521) Y O U R O P I N I O N S A N D L E T T E R S A R E W E L C O M E ! There is a 250-word limit, and all letters will be edited. If you send photos or other materials, identifications and permissions are required. Letters must include your name along with your address, daytime telephone number or email address. Email Genetically modified plants The following is a response by my neighbor, Elizabeth Rintoul, to the pro- file of agriculture instructor Holly Egan in the April Educator. Ms. Egan's role as adviser to her school's chapter of Future Farmers of America is to be applauded. But I disagree with her advice that "peo- ple shouldn't be scared of genetically modified plants." In 2004 the National Research Coun- cil indicated that given the complexities and uncertainties of genomic process- es, transgenics show greater risks of "unintended genetic effects" than other traditional forms of plant breeding. Ge- netic modification is not the equivalent of selective breeding; genetic modifi- cation involves creating entirely new combinations of genes. Genetic modification as a technology fits the mold of other biotechnologies deployed under the firm guiding hand of corporations. GMOs follow the pattern of modification that has led to undesired and potentially disruptive consequences for biological and ecological processes. As Swarthmore College philosophy professor Hugh Lacey asserts, GMOs must not be employed as magic bullet solutions for broader health or agricul- tural problems, because each magic bullet can engender new problems. It is often the case that potentially benevolent and "not for profit" uses of biotechnology are simply used as marketing for more lucrative and less healthful products. Betty Brown, retired Kensington We received numerous contest entries from intrepid CTA members who traveled the globe this summer, like Karin Sylvester McCarty, shown on the facing page in St. Petersburg, Russia. View our winners on page 57. Educators Are Everywhere Contest Winners Update on pesticide safety As the California Educator reported in April in a story titled "Hazardous Harvests" about pesticide use near California's public schools, the dan- gers posed to children from agricultur- al pesticides are well-documented and ongoing. We reported on a new state study documenting heavy pesticide use near many schools, and how low-income Latino students had the most exposure of all. CTA sent a for- mal letter to the state Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) demand- ing more safeguards, and teachers — especially those in Monterey County — were planning to testify at DPR hearings around California about possi- ble new regulations. As an update, in late July, the state finished its hearings in five cities. Educators joined parents and com- munity leaders in demanding larger buffer zones around schools and more restrictions on pesticides linked to cancer, learning disabilities and asth- ma. A draft of new state safety rules is due by the end of this year, and meaningful regulations are supposed to be implemented in 2017. We will continue to follow this story, as are activist groups like Californians for Pesticide Reform, which provides up- dates online at 3 V O L U M E 2 0 I S S U E 1

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