Thursday, August 29, 2013


The kids are antsy from the long vacation.  The malls are packed.  That’s right – it’s back to school time.  As a parent, what do you need to know?

For starters, it’s important to engage with your child’s teachers early.  According to Eric Sheninger, an award-winning Principal at New Milford High School, Back to School Night is vitally important to attend for face-to-face interaction and also a “good time to address potential problems at home that may interfere with your child’s success at school, such as family illness, divorce or economic struggles…these details can help a teacher better communicate with your child.”  You may also want to consider writing a brief note to your child’s teacher at the start of the school year conveying your interest in hearing feedback about his or her academic performance and behavior in the classroom.  This will create a smooth introduction, should miscommunication with your child or the school ever occur.

In an article “What Teachers Want You to Know” from USA Weekend, staying tapped into social media – whether it’s keeping up to date with your child’s online presence (the average young person spends 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen) or following classroom activity – is integral in a changing age of technology. Principal Sheninger also suggests setting up timetables for long projects and shying away from actually finishing projects for your children in the place of their own learning.

In anticipation of the back-to-school rush, the National Association of School Psychologists advises on re-establishing bedtime and mealtime routines now and weaning kids off the television, so the transition back to a more disciplined education setting is easier.  Additionally, teaching young children to make their own lunches the night before will instill a good habit and reduce stress on you for many years to come.

With that – I wish students and parents alike a much successful new school year!

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce represents parts of Morris, Essex, and Passaic Counties.  She serves on the Education Committee, Higher Education Committee, Joint Committee on Public Schools, and the Women and Children Committee.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Right To Know What You're Eating

Source: Hunterton County Democrat (Op-Ed By BettyLou DeCroce)-

Since the 1960s, U.S. consumers have become increasingly interested in what’s in the food they buy. With good reason. Modern processed foods are loaded with unhealthy ingredients such as sodium, sugar and saturated fats — not to mention, a host of chemicals.

As people have become increasingly health conscious, consumer advocates have demanded that food companies detail what’s in the products they sell. That’s why we see moms and dads in supermarkets reading labels and comparing ingredients; they want to make the healthiest, smartest choices they can for themselves and their families.

To help consumers make those choices, I signed on to a bipartisan bill in the Legislature to require foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, to be labeled as such. I’m not necessarily opposed to GM foods, and I appreciate the biotechnology that makes some crops more resistant to disease and drought and increases yields. I also appreciate the investment in GMOs made by international companies such as Monsanto, Dow and BASF.

These companies have given us many tremendous products, but they have also given us products that harm people and the environment. It’s safe to say there are downsides to GM foods that we don’t know about yet. So why not give consumers the right to know if the wheat, corn or sugar beets they put on the table were genetically altered? Why not give consumers the right to choose?

I’m not alone in my desire to empower and protect consumers.
• A New York Times poll found that 93 percent of respondents wanted labeling of GMO products and that three-quarters expressed concerns about the health effects of GMOs.
• 26 states have introduced or passed GMO labeling laws.
• Whole Foods stores support mandatory labeling of GMO foods.
• Several European Union countries, including France, Germany and Austria, have banned cultivation of genetically modified crops.

Experts say one of the biggest risks of GMOs is introducing allergens and toxins to food. Accidental contamination between genetically modified and non-modified foods also destroys the claim of organic food producers.

Concerns about GMOs are highlighted by an incident involving StarLink modified corn, which was approved for animal feed, but not for human consumption because of concerns about allergic reactions. The StarLink corn turned up unexpectedly in many Kraft products, including Taco Bell corn shells. Apparently, some corn fields were accidentally contaminated with the StarLink seed. Several dozen people reported severe allergic reactions to the tacos; major recalls followed.

The Environmental Protection Agency said tests were inconclusive about the connection between the GMO corn and the allergic reactions. But Aventis Cropscience, StarLink corn’s inventor, voluntarily withdrew registration for the GMO corn. It will no longer be grown.

Clearly, those who insist GMO crops are safe for people and the environment and are rigorously tested are simply wrong.

Regulation of GMO foods is in the jurisdiction of the Food & Drug Administration, the EPA and the Agriculture Department, which often rely on industry to self-police its products. In a WebMD article, Gregory Jaffe, director of the Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote:
“I think the regulation system in the U.S. could be greatly improved. Our view is that the public is entitled to have the FDA determining that the food is safe and not relying on (companies such as) Monsanto telling us the food is safe.”

Commenting on the science of engineering food technology, David Ehrenfeld, a professor of biology at Rutgers’ Cook College, said: “The technology is based on sound science to the extent that they’ve been able to do it. It’s not based on sound ecology or sound environmental practice.”

There is enough doubt about GMOs to at least alert consumers they are ingesting engineered foods. Government already requires companies to list many product ingredients. Many food producers proudly display the term “organic” to encourage consumers to buy their product.

If farmers and manufacturers believe GMOs are truly beneficial, or benign, why not proudly admit that “this is a genetically altered food”?

I don’t think that’s too much information. I think it’s the right information.