Behind the White House Face-Lift

Certain other foods, including oils, are exempt, and there are no penalties. Following warnings by the Agriculture Ministry that the use of "Frankenstein crops" in animal feed could lead to antibiotic-resistant "super bugs," British officials admitted recently that they had no idea how many such crops were being used.

Monsanto fights vigorously worldwide to win acceptance of engineered foods, last year, for example, bringing Irish journalists to the U.S. and arranging a tour of the Oval Office for them. That visit was helped by the fact that Monsanto had hired Marcia Hale, President Clinton's former director of intergovernmental affairs.

However, it's one thing to try to influence the Clinton White House quite another to counter the heir to the throne of England. ("I personally have no wish to eat anything produced by genetic manipulation," the prince declared in a recent Web posting. "Nor do I knowingly offer this sort of produce to my family or guests.")

Prince of Wales goes to the wall: Charles chats with visitors to Fold Head Farm (see ''Battle of Britain'').
Prince of Wales goes to the wall: Charles chats with visitors to Fold Head Farm (see ''Battle of Britain'').

Nevertheless, Monsanto plugs on. A Monsanto spokesman said, "Prince Charles is entitled to his opinion," adding that "the risks are minimal and manageable."

Radioactive Ed
Towns Pushes Nevada Nuke Dump

Congressman Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn, a big recipient of campaign financing from the nuclear energy industry, is co-sponsoring House legislation with Michigan's Fred Upton to transport all of the nation's high-level nuclear waste to a test site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Under the plan, 95 percent of the radioactive waste generated by the nation's 109 commercial reactors would be hauled to a nuclear tomb at the U.S. Nevada Test Site, 100 miles north of Las Vegas.

Though Nevada residents are protesting fiercely, fixing Yucca Mountain as the sole site for nuclear waste is a good way to ensure that it doesn't get stored in the East, particularly near Westchester— home to Con Ed's Indian Point nuclear plant. Ironically, Westchester's Republican congresswoman, Sue Kelly, has voted against previous Yucca Mountain proposals.

With scientists predicting that radioactivity will leak into ground water, Yucca Mountain is hardly a secure site. Geologically, the area is unstable, having been rocked by more than 621 earthquakes in the past 20 years. And because the project calls for 30 years of continuous shipments by train and truck of 60,000 casks filled wih irradiated reactor fuel, it is being referred to as "Mobile Chernobyl."

One study finds that a single rail cask will contain more cesium than was released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb; that more than 300 accidents involving shipment of this high-level nuclear waste can be expected; and that there is enough plutonium-239 in the waste stream to cause 1.5 million cancers.

So why would a Brooklyn congressman praised for his concerns over the siting of health-threatening facilities in minority communities— the author of legislation to end incineration in those communities— be involved in such a questionable and potentially dangerous plan? As indicated above, the answer may be money. According to Public Citizen, over the last election cycle, Towns got $41,950 in PAC contributions from the nuclear industry, more than any other member of the state delegation.

Towns did not return calls for comment.

None of the Above

No wonder Jesse "the body" Ventura was the hit of the Governors' Conference last week. Ventura's campaign, attracting nonvoters in Minnesota, is one of the few pluses in a sorry statistical saga, which shows a steady decline among the voting public.

Voter turnout in the 1998 midterm election continued a falloff to 36 percent of the eligible electorate— the lowest level since 1942. Despite an increase in registration, the numbers of Americans voting dropped 2.5 million from 1994. According to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, approximately 72.5 million people voted, while 115.5 million refrained. If there's a trend, it's away from both major parties and toward independent alliances. Registration for alternative parties climbed from 1.62 percent in 1962 to 13 percent last year, the group notes.

Additional reporting: Ioanna Veleanu

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