February 6, 2003, Issue #222
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

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BILL POOVEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Federal prosecutors told jurors Wednesday that
"corporate greed" motivated Tyson Foods Inc. to hire illegal immigrants at its poultry processing plants and that high-ranking executives knew about the practice but did nothing to stop it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John MacCoon began laying out the government's case in his opening statement, saying prosecutors will clearly show the nation's largest meat company conspired from 1992 to 2001 to hire illegal immigrants.

Tyson sought these employees "who would work for low wages and never complain --- no matter how much they were exploited --- because they were illegal aliens," MacCoon said.

Some Tyson executives encouraged the practice because it allowed the company to pad its bottom line, the prosecutor claimed.

"This trial is about corporate greed," MacCoon said.

Tyson, which was to present its opening statements after MacCoon concluded, has denied the government charges and rejected efforts to settle the case.

At plants in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and Wilkesboro, North Carolina, illegal workers outnumbered legitimate employees on Tyson's poultry processing lines, MacCoon said.

He called the Shelbyville plant "the proving ground of a nationwide conspiracy by Tyson" and said the company's hiring practices are the reason the community has Tennessee's highest percentage of Hispanic residents --- eight percent, according to the 2000 Census.

Besides the company, two executives on administrative leave --- Robert Hash, 49, and Keith Snyder, 42 --- and former human relations manager Gerald Lankford, 63, are accused of a conspiracy that smuggled illegal immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to work at plants in several states.

Two other former Tyson managers have made plea-bargain deals with prosecutors and will likely testify.

The jury of seven men and five women and a group of alternates [in Chattanooga Tennessee] were seated Tuesday. Attorneys for Springdale, Arkansas.-based Tyson quizzed potential jurors about any bias related to recent corporate scandals in the news.

A December 2001 indictment accuses Tyson and other defendants of taking part in a conspiracy in which illegal workers were smuggled to poultry plants in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas.

The indictment says illegal workers also were hired through temporary employment agencies to work at Tyson plants in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Missouri.

Tyson attorneys have said they turned down a government demand for $100 million to have the charges dropped. The attorneys have accused the government of using undercover agents to entrap Tyson employees.

Shares of Tyson fell 26 cents to close Wednesday at $9.60 on the New York Stock Exchange.


ASSOCIATED PRESS: More than half the largest U.S. meat plants checked by the government had shortcomings in their plans for preventing harmful bacteria from contaminating meat.

A preliminary review showed 60% of 35 large plants had problems with their plans designed to prevent E. coli, the Agriculture Department's food safety administrator, Garry McKee, said Tuesday. McKee described them as "scientific design issues and not food safety issues."

Steven Cohen, a department spokesman, said most of the plants faltered on keeping records up to date.

The department began checking plants last fall to ensure they follow written plans to prevent E. coli from contaminating meat. Plants that didn't follow their strategies were sent letters telling them to correct the problems within 30 days, Cohen said.

The government requires plants to write their own prevention plans, known as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point strategies, and stick to them.

"If plants don't conduct their hazard analysis correctly, or there's something wrong with their HACCP plan -the way that they reassessed it and so forth -there will be actions taken," warned Elsa Murano, the department's undersecretary for food safety.

Consumer groups and members of Congress have criticized the department for how it handled meat recalls last year, some of which were the largest on record and linked to several illnesses. ConAgra Beef in Greeley, Colorado, for example, recalled 19 million pounds of ground beef after it was linked to an E. coli outbreak that sickened 22 people.

Carol Tucker Foreman, head of the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute, said plants are endangering public health in failing to adhere to their prevention plans. "If there's a scientific design problem, either there's something wrong with the notion about what HACCP ought to be, or the HACCP notion is fine but companies are operating in such a way that they're going to have a food safety problem," she said.

By this summer, the department will complete its assessment of E. coli prevention plans at all plants, department officials said.

President Bush proposed spending $675 million on food safety next year in the budget he submitted to Congress on Monday. Murano said $5.5 million of that would finance training plant inspectors, $4.3 million would be spent to hire 80 new ones. The agency now has 7,610 inspectors. In addition, $18 million would support the USDA's Office of Food Security and Emergency Preparedness to defend against terrorists' attempts to taint the food supply.


REUTERS: Stung by record recalls of tainted meat last year, the U.S. food industry is stepping up the use of new technology to irradiate meat as an extra protection against deadly bacteria such as E. coli and listeria.

Just a small part of the nine billion pounds of ground beef sold in the United States last year was irradiated, but the amount is growing rapidly, despite concerns voiced by some consumer groups about the unknown long-term effects on health.

``I would estimate the total volume currently being irradiated under five percent (of beef production), but we are anticipating an exponential growth curve,'' said Janet Riley, spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute (AMI).

Irradiation exposes products to ionizing radiation that kills insects, molds and bacteria. The U.S. government approved irradiation treatment of ground beef in January 2000, and the first batch was processed in May of that year.

Irradiation began to ramp up late last year after the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In October, Pilgrim's Pride Corp. recalled 27.4 million pounds of poultry products because of an outbreak of listeria, a potentially deadly  bacteria. The outbreak that prompted the recall was blamed for killing eight people and making more than 40 sick.

Food companies see irradiation as another barrier of protection against bacteria that can cause food-borne illness, especially to protect children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

SureBeam Corp., the largest provider of the technology, said it expects to process between 300 million and 350 million pounds of beef this year, up from about 15 million in 2002.

``Irradiation eliminates 99.9 percent of the pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria without changing the taste, texture, appearance or nutritional value of the meat,'' said John Fox, associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. ``In spite of its name, the process cannot make food radioactive.''

The Food and Drug Administration permits three types of ionizing radiation on foods: gamma rays, high-energy electrons and X-rays.

Irradiation is widely used to sterilize many non-food products, including toothbrushes, home-use adhesive bandage strips and surgical tools, although at doses much higher than used for food. Irradiation has been used to kill insects in wheat flour since 1963 and used on common kitchen spices since 1983.

Still, critics say irradiation may deplete vitamins and nutrients, and that irradiated food contains chemical byproducts that may be harmful. They say irradiation is an effort by meat packers and processors to cover up sloppy food-handling processes.

Washington-based consumer group Public Citizen, for example, is calling for studies on the long-term effects of treated meat on children. In the meantime, they oppose the use of irradiation for beef supplied by the Agriculture Department for school meals.

``A decision to feed schoolchildren irradiated food would mean this agency  (USDA) is willing to put our children's health at risk to help cover up the meat industry's sanitary failures,'' said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critcal Mass Energy and Environment Program.

Also, if irradiated food is permitted in school lunches, it will not be labeled in the way that irradiated retail food must be, making it impossible for parents to know what school cafeterias are feeding their children, critics point out. The FDA requires irradiated meat be labeled with a symbol resembling a stylized flower and the words ``treated by irradiation.''

Meat industry experts said irradiation is no ``silver bullet'' and proper food handling at home remains critical. Meat can be contaminated by residue from other foods or by utensils used to prepare other meals. Cooking of ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit can kill E. coli and listeria, the Beef Council said.

Still, the proven benefits are clearly winning over many consumers and health care officials, and use of the technology is taking off.

A nationwide survey conducted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association found that 48% of Americans would purchase irradiated meat. That response in November 2002 was up from 38% in February. Industry officials said that small doses of irradiation should not affect the taste of the meat.

The World Health Organization has endorsed irradiation, saying it is one of the most effective food decontamination methods available for meat and poultry products.

``On the average, one major retail (food) chain has rolled out irradiated ground beef every week basically since last August,'' said Ron Eustice, executive director of the Minnesota Beef Council. He said about 4,000 supermarkets carry either fresh irradiated ground beef or frozen products.

Supermarket companies Safeway Inc, Albertson's Inc. and Giant Eagle Inc. have all signed on to sell irradiated meat at some of their stores.

The number of packers and processors irradiating beef is growing rapidly. They are beginning to contract for irradiation capability in their plants instead of at remote locations.

Excel, a division of Minnesota-based Cargill Inc., plans to install electron beam irradiation facilities at its packing plants in Schuyler, Nebraska, and Plano, Texas. Rochester, Minnesota-based TeMeats, and Minnesota-based W.W. Johnson Co. have announced plans to market irradiated product.

The former ConAgra Foods Inc. slaughterhouse in Greeley, Colorado, now operating as Swift and Co., has committed more than $4 million to increase food safety and plans later this year to have some of its meat irradiated. In July, the plant was the focal point of the third-largest beef recall in history when the company recalled almost 19 million pounds
of beef because of E. coli concerns.

``Irradiated ground beef will become the gold standard at food service in the next two to three years,'' said the Minnesota Beef Council's Eustice. ``Food irradiation will take its rightful place as the fourth pillar of public health alongside pasteurization of milk, immunization against disease and chlorination of our water supply --- and that will take place in the next decade.''


TOM MEERSMAN, MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE: Children's bodies contain twice the levels of several pesticides compared to adults, according to a national study released [January 31] by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The $6.5 million study looked for 116 chemicals in the blood and urine of 2,500 people in 1999 and 2000. It is the most extensive assessment to date of Americans' exposure to environmental chemicals.

The study measured metals such as mercury, lead and uranium, and various active ingredients or breakdown products of pesticides, insect repellents, plastics and disinfectants.

Dr. Richard Jackson, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, said that the study did not attempt to evaluate which exposure levels are safe and which are not. "I must stress that just because a chemical can be measured in blood or urine doesn't mean that it causes illness or disease," he said.

Dr. Jim Pirkle, deputy director for science at CDC's environmental health laboratory, said children consistently had higher levels of insecticide-related chemicals than adults. For one insecticide, chlorpyrifos, sold as Dursban, the levels in children's urine were twice that of adults.

Dursban has been one of the most heavily used insecticides to kill roaches in homes. It's also found in Lorsban, which is used to control agricultural pests. Pirkle said the levels were measured before federal officials banned sales of the chemical for residential use at the end of 2001.

Jackson said one reason for the higher levels in children may be that they eat, breathe and drink two to three times more than adults do, relative to their body weight.

Pam Shubat, environmental toxicologist for the Minnesota Department of Health, said the study's data will be valuable immediately, giving physicians and public health officials a reference against which to compare lab results. "This is exactly the kind of data that make it easier to tell whether we're looking at unusual levels of something," she said.

The CDC also found that the percentage of children with elevated lead levels in their blood has been cut in half in the past decade, and that cotinine, a product of nicotine, had dropped by 75 percent in nonsmoking adults and 58% in children since the early 1990s.

Researchers said they were encouraged that levels of other chemicals seem to be ebbing, including the banned insecticide DDT, PCBs, and dioxins.

Jackie Hunt Christensen, co-director of the food and health program at theInstitute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, said the study shows that some chemicals remain in the environment --- and in people --- for decades. "It shows that we shouldn't broadcast [use] them quite so wantonly as we have been doing," she said.

YERETH ROSEN, REUTERS: A trial in a class-action lawsuit alleging salmon price fixing opened on Monday in Alaska state Superior Court, 12 years after fishermen in Alaska's Bristol Bay docked their boats to protest low prices offered by seafood processors.

About 4,500 fishermen are seeking at least $1 billion in compensation and penalties for an alleged price-fixing arrangement they say was in force from 1991 to 1995. They say the processors and traders nearly drove them out of business.

"The fishermen are a resource, just like the salmon are, and they need protection," said Bruce Stanford, an attorney who launched the lawsuit in 1995. "They need an equal playing field. And it's not equal."

The 1991 strike came after processors offered 50 cents a pound (0.45 kg) for sockeye, a fish that had drawn more than $2 a pound three years earlier. The processors have said market forces caused Alaska salmon prices to plunge.

Seventeen corporations are listed as defendants, including seafood giant Nippon Suisan. Many of the defendants are Japanese-owned.

Bristol Bay, in southwestern Alaska, holds the world's biggest sockeye run. Most of the region's salmon is sold to Japanese markets.

Alaska salmon prices have fallen significantly in recent years. Last year, Bristol Bay fishermen were paid an average of 45 cents a pound for sockeye, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski set a three-month schedule for the trial. Michalski dismissed the case in 1999 for what he said was lack of evidence, but the state Supreme Court reversed his decision three years later.

Some defendants have already settled claims against them. Among them was Mitsui, which agreed in 1998 to pay $6.25 million to the fishermen.


STEVEN LEWIS, FOOD AND CHEMICAL NEWS: Mexico's Chamber of Fisheries says it will file a $1 billion lawsuit for damages resulting from ongoing delays in allowing exports of Mexican tuna under the dolphin safe label

The lawsuit seeks recompense from Earth Island Institute and U.S. companies that support the ban.

The Bush administrations new standards allow tuna to be caught in encircling nets as long as dolphins are released unharmed. Official observers would be assigned to fishing boats to document any harm to dolphins, and the dolphin safe label would be denied for any catch linked to the death of a dolphin.

Mexico will press ahead with its request for arbitration before the World Trade Organization. The call for arbitration was dropped late last year when Mexican trade officials  learned of the Bush administrations plan to ease restrictions that prevented Mexico from using the dolphin safe label. Mexico started exporting tuna under that label early last month, but only 30,000 cans were shipped before January 10, when the label authorization was put on hold for 90 days.

Earth Island Institute and three leading U.S. tuna brands (Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea, and StarKist) have voiced opposition to the laxer Bush administration standards, citing concerns about the safety of sea mammals. However, Mexico's tuna industry supports the Bush administrations stance that adequate dolphin safeguards are built into the new standards.

In its claim for $1 billion in damages, Mexico's Chamber of Fisheries maintains that Earth Island Institute and the leading U.S. brands reap financial gain by excluding Mexico from the United States market. Their stance is supported by an industry consensus that the entry of Mexican tuna would undermine recent profit margin growth enjoyed by leading U.S. tuna brands.

Chicken of the Sea, a subsidiary of Thai Union Frozen Products, reported third quarter earnings growth of 142% compared to last year. Much of that growth was attributed to improved profits in the U.S. market. Thailand's trade promotion office in New York expressed concern that Mexican tuna would enter the United States with a competitive edge because of geographic proximity and preferential tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

StarKist and Bumble Bee have processing plants in Ecuador. That nations tuna industry leaders recently expressed concern that gaining access to the dolphin-safe label will position Mexico as a strong competitor both in the European Union and U.S. because it has free trade agreements with both blocs. Much is at stake for Ecuador and tuna processors operating there. Tuna exports accounted for almost 39% of the nations total exports by volume last year.

The Mexican Fisheries Chambers decision to fight ongoing restrictions on its tuna imports in both the WTO and U.S court system underscores its determination to export under the dolphin-safe label. Given Mexico's inability to penetrate key markets without the label in recent years, the tuna industry believes its recovery hinges on renewal of dolphin-safe exports.

If Mexico is allowed to use the dolphin-safe label beginning March 11, it will probably back away from its call for WTO arbitration as it did last year and the $1 billion lawsuit.


SIMON CAULKER, THE OBSERVER: Last week, Nestle quietly dropped its $6 million compensation claim against famine-stricken Ethiopia, accepting the country's $1.5 million offer and donating it to hunger relief. Nestle's embarrassment, occasioned by a well-orchestrated outcry at the actions of the largest coffee producer against one of the world's poorest countries, is a small triumph for fairtrade campaigners.

But more significant, it is testimony to the growing assurance of the ethical consumption movement in playing the brands game. Fairtrade was not always that adept. 'We used to think that because we had the moral high ground we could ignore the business case for buying or not buying a brand,' says Sylvie Barr, head of strategic development at tea and coffee supplier Cafedirect.

But the world is changing. As consumers become ever more sophisticated, brands grow in power --- but also in vulnerability. 'All major brands are potentially exposable,' writes Wendy Gordon in Brand Green: Mainstream or Forever Niche? To play on this fertile but risky terrain, says Barr, ethical marketers need to completely understand the rules of the game.

Turning the power of brands back against themselves is one important trick the ethical movement has learnt to use to raise awareness and edge fair trade towards the mainstream. After all, the ultimate aim is that all products should be produced fairly.

And, although this is a long way off, progress is steadily being made. For example, the Ethical Trading Initiative, a tripartite project to promote human rights in global supply chains, now claims membership of UK companies with a combined turnover of more than 100 billion, including most big retailers, along with trade unions and NGOs.

But there are important opportunities at product level, too. As a new breed ,of activists is enthusiastically discovering, ethical products that are carefully nurtured have increasingly valuable marketing assets. Although relatively tiny --- the combined UK market share of ethical products over seven food and non-food segments is around 1.5 per cent --- this made 7bn in sales in 2001, according to the Co-op Bank's Ethical Purchasing Index.

And the totals are growing fast: the Index is up by 25 points since the 1999 baseline, double the growth rate of the equivalent non-ethical basket.

The figures conceal some instructive individual success stories. On the producer side, Caf*direct, as its name suggests, sources all its coffee and tea direct from growers at better than Fairtrade standards, and has found domination by major multinational brands leaves an inviting space for an agile newcomer.

Its Cafedirect 5065 brand is the fastest-growing freeze-dried coffee product in the UK against a decline for the overall sector. Its speciality roast and ground products are also strong contributors to an annual growth rate of 20%.

The secret? Understanding that great quality and a reasonable price come first, says Barr. 'Only then do you get to tell the story of the origins and the sustainable business model behind it.'

That then develops into the classic brand virtuous circle: the more people who buy it, the more can be invested in raising awareness, which then feeds back into the brand - and into Fairtrade as a whole.

'It's the same for the growers,' says Barr. 'They're not asking for charity; they want a relationship in which their heritage of expertise accumulated over the generations is valued because it produces a better product. It's a business case.'

The same reasoning underpins the growth of Fairtrade-labelled products at the Co-op, which around four years ago decided to lead the retail sector in making a real effort to bring the concept into the mainstream. Starting in 1999, it put Fairtrade-branded products into all its 2,300 stores, then introduced the UK's first Fairtrade bananas, followed by a Fairtrade own-label chocolate bar and a slew of other products: coffee, wine,  mangoes, pineapples and chocolate cake.

In November, the Co-op scored a major coup by switching the sourcing of all its own-label chocolate to Fairtrade - at the same time affirming its ethical 'brand' and severely embarrassing an industry discomfited by persistent allegations of slavery on cocoa farms in West Africa.

'Everything about Fairtrade fits with the Co-op,' says group head of brand and corporate marketing Terry Hudghton --- a judgment which is borne out by the expansion of the group's Fairtrade sales from 100,000 to 7.5m in four years. This is faster than originally expected and, for Hudghton, is an indicator of the potency of the Fairtrade message.

'If you are competitive at the quality and price thresholds, the social side is a great differentiator,' he says. 'It also strengthens our overall brand stance of responsible consumption against the other chains, which seem hellbent on competing on price and squeezing suppliers to the limit.'

Lusty it may be, but the ethical consumer movement is still an infant. How far along the road to mainstream adulthood can the present momentum take it? Participants believe that as long as they don't forget the rules, the potential is huge. Cafedirect expects to double in size over the next three years; Hudghton, although shying away from specific targets, also expects healthy growth to continue, fuelled by a further range of product introductions.

While the supermarket chains at least give space to organic and Fairtrade products, and to that extent help to spread the message, the next big step will be to with the major manufacturers. Starting with coffee and chocolate, then moving on to non-food items such as textiles, the big brands need to source responsibly. Oxfam is pressing the larger coffee companies to start buying Fairtrade as a means of bringing demand and supply into balance.

'At present, prices paid to farmers are less than the cost of production, and quality is deteriorating. That is not sustainable,' says the charity's Sophia Tickell.

Why do companies hesitate? Partly because they worry what buying Fairtrade would say about their other sources, and partly because they can still maintain that ethical business is a minority interest. But the brand game may be running away from them. Consumers are beginning to learn that buying Fairtrade and ethical products can create a feelgood factor rather than a guilt trip.

'There may be a ceiling on the size of the market somewhere,' says Ian Bretman, of the Fairtrade Foundation. "But I don't feel we're anywhere in sight of it yet if we're doing our job properly."


Supermarket chains in the northeast are using their market power to reap record profits on milk at the expense of both dairy farmers and consumers, according to a new report.

The findings are fueling legislative efforts in several New England states to rein in the power of grocery chains. One proposal in Maine would tax big box retailers to support dairy farms.

The study, "Milk Prices in New England and Neighboring Areas of New York: A Prologue to Action?" by Ronald W. Cotterill, Adam N. Rabinowitz, and Li Tian of the University of Connecticut, examined milk prices at 191 stores in four states and found that, while farm prices have dropped to 25-year lows, retail prices remain at record highs.

Since late 2001, when Congress abolished a price support structure known as the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact, raw milk prices in New England have dropped from $1.65 a gallon to $1.10. This is well below what it costs farmers to produce milk, which is about $1.50 a gallon.

Meanwhile, consumer prices have inched down only slightly, from $3.09 a gallon to $3.01. The problem, according to the researchers, is that a handful of retail chains and milk processors now dominate the market, leaving farmers with few options for selling their milk and consumers with exorbitant prices. "Consumers in New England are being overcharged at the rate of $144 million per year," the report concludes.

The study found that, despite efficiencies of size, prices were highest at large supermarket chains and lower at smaller retailers. Wal-Mart's milk prices were only slightly lower than the high prices charged by established grocery chains.

The study found that prices in New York are much lower --- around $2.20 a gallon --- due to a 1991 law that bars retailers from charging more than twice what farmers receive for their milk. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire are now considering similar legislation.

Another approach, proposed by Ronald Cotterill, one of the study's authors, is a "fair share" law. When the consumer price of milk exceeds 1.8 times what farmers receive, then half the additional revenue would be collected from supermarkets and funneled back to dairy farmers.

Vermont meanwhile has launched an extensive investigation of milk prices and is expected to release a report soon recommending legislative action.

Several measures are under consideration in Maine. One would revive a statewide program similar to the regional Compact. Another would levy a handling tax on milk that would be funneled into a subsidy program for farmers.

Another measure would tax big box stores to support dairy farms. The bill would levy a 0.001 percent tax on revenue at stores larger than 10,000 square feet located outside of traditional town centers. (The tax on a typical Wal-Mart supercenter would be roughly $80,000.) The funds would be used for support payments to dairy farms and to reduce property taxes on agricultural land to protect it from development.

"Milk Prices in New England and Neighboring Areas of New York: A Prologue to Action?" by Ronald W. Cotterill, Adam N. Rabinowitz, and Li Tian. Paper presented at: Crisis in Dairy Farming Forum, University of Connecticut.


MALIA RULON, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Those battling to nab the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2004 include Joe Lieberman, John F. Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt --- and Dennis Kucinich?

After making stirring speeches across the country and emerging as Congress' liberal answer to the Bush administration, one of Ohio's congressman is starting to be mentioned as White House material.

Kucinich, 56, is best known nationally as being Cleveland's "boy mayor" in the 1970s. However, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the increased attention on the inspection of Iraqi weapons, Kucinich has become a national voice for civil liberties and peace.

He plans to spend five days in Iowa this month. Still, the three-term congressman has skillfully dodged questions about his political ambitions. He told Wolf Blitzer on CNN this week to "stay tuned."

"I have been hearing from people all over the country who are asking for my voice to be added into the debate," Kucinich said at a Washington news conference this week. "I'm listening very carefully to those voices."

A spokesman from Kucinich's office said the congressman receives "tens of thousands" of phone calls and e-mails each day urging him to run. The onslaught started after Kucinich gave a speech last February called "A prayer for America."

In that Los Angeles address, Kucinich used patriotic language to denounce Bush administration policies that he says tread on personal liberties and take the country in a dangerous direction internationally.

Ralph Nader, who also appeals to economic populists, has spoken publicly about his support for Kucinich, saying the race needs a progressive candidate. Nader was the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2000.

As chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which consists of 55 of the most liberal members, Kucinich has pushed in Congress for a worker-friendly economic stimulus package and been a longtime advocate for establishing a Department of Peace.

"He is very strong on labor issues, so I am hopeful that he may raise some issues that might not otherwise be discussed," said Gordon Fischer, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Fischer said his state has seen many of the Democratic hopefuls in the last several months and the buzz about Kucinich has been circling the state. The Iowa Caucus is considered an early test of how successful candidates would be in a presidential race.

Still, Kucinich lacks the name recognition of the current Democratic contenders. And his campaign account had $43,668 as of November 25, 2002, while a presidential primary campaign costs $20 million to $30 million.

Ohio State University political scientist Paul Beck said he wouldn't take the Kucinich rumors seriously --- but, he added, you never know.

"It can happen. I would have said the same thing about Jimmy Carter in 1974," he said. "One can only imagine that if the war goes badly and the economy continues to decline, all of a sudden, Dennis Kucinich looks like he's positioned right on the axis of the major issues."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The article fails to mention that on May 22, 2002, Rep. Kucinich introduced five bills that would provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all genetically engineered plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms.

The five bills included the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2002, which requires food companies to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered materials and instructs the Food and Drug Administration to conduct periodic tests to ensure compliance. Also introduced were the Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act of 2002, the Genetically Engineered Crop and Animal Framer Protection Act of 2002, the Genetically Engineered Organism Liability Act of 2002, and the Real Solutions to World Hunger Act of 2002.

"This technology is totally different from traditional breeding techniques," Kucinich stated. "Genetic engineering is a powerful technology. Current laws, such as our food safety and environmental laws, were not written with this technology in mind."

Combined Kucinich's bills would ensure that consumers are protected, increase food safety, protect farmers rights, make biotech companies liable for their products, and help developing nations resolve hunger concerns.

The next edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER will appear February 21.

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