FARMERS PROPOSE ESTATE TAX REFORM. Republicans focused on the plight of small farmers and businesses as they sought to make hay of congressional Democrats' upholding President Clinton's veto of the estate tax repeal, but National Farmers Union President Leland Swenson said the repeal, which would have cost the federal treasury $100 billion over 10 years, was irresponsible and would have aided only 2% of the population. Since couples already can exempt up to $1.35 million (rising to $2 million by 2006). fewer than 48,000 estates paid any federal estate tax in 1998, and of those, only 1,800 were small businesses or farms. Farmers Union proposed as an alternative that Congress increase the exemption to $4 million per couple for estates where the majority of the assets are comprised of a small business or family farm; index exemption levels that reflect increases in asset values due to inflation; provide for modest estate tax rate reductions; simplify the rules and requirements that must be met to be eligible for the full level of estate tax exemption; and increase the annual limit on gifts from $10,000 to $25,000.
WILTED GREEN. Andre Vasquez reported in the Boston Globe on Sunday, September 3, in "Toby Moffett: An Old Hand For Greens Shifts Allegiance To Gore," that Moffett, a former liberal congressman who once helped Ralph Nader form a Connecticut Citizen Action group, now has formed a committee of "former Nader co-workers" to campaign against the Green nominee and instead promote Democrat Al Gore. The article notes that Moffett, 56, was an aide to then-Senator Walter F. Mondale and later an environmental and consumer rights advocate in four terms in the US House, before an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 1982. "He has since been a television news anchor, and is now a Washington consultant to corporations and accounting firms," Vasquez reported, but the web site commondreams.org notes that "Toby Moffett 'shifted his allegiance' to corporate America long ago. He is Monsanto Corporation's Vice President for International & Governmental Affairs i.e. Chief Lobbyist." According to several published reports, Moffett was Mon-santo's chief lobbyist in 1998-99 when Nader was at the forefront of criticizing the corporation's genetic food manipulations. Moffett said his group is acting independently of the Gore campaign and a Gore campaign spokesperson told the Globe that Moffett was doing ''informal work'' for Gore, but did not elaborate.
GENETICALLY ALTERED FOOD GUIDE. Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers [published by Marlowe & Company, $12.95] by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, and Ben Lilliston of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is now available in bookstores and for ordering on the internet. The paperback explores the current debates surrounding health and environmental risks of genetically engineered foods. The book contains extensive new research on US food companies -- which are using genetically engineered ingredients, and which aren't. It also provides practical guidelines for consumers who wish to keep genetically engineered foods out of their diet. It is available in conventional and on-line bookstores, or see: www.iatp.org.
MOST UNINSURED HAVE JOBS. Families of the "working uninsured" -- people who have jobs but no health insurance coverage -- account for 83 percent of all the 44 million uninsured people in the nation, according to the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Most recent data show that about 72% of the adult working population was covered by an employment-based health plan in 1998, and about 18% of workers and their families were uninsured. Adult workers accounted for more than half of the entire uninsured population, with most of the remaining uninsured in families in which the family head was employed, the EBRI report found. For more information, see: www.ebri.org.
MINNEAPOLIS SUPPORTS ORGANIC FOODS. The Minneapolis City Council on Aug. 25 overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for a federal moratorium on the use of genetically engineered food. The city will consider certified organic foods in vendor contracts, and urged the Minneapolis School District to consider offering certified organic lunches as an option. The resolution also endorsed US House Bill 3883, the "Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act," and the companion US Senate Bill 2080, the "Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act." Opposing the resolution were University of Minnesota food researchers and the Minnesota Biotechnology Organization, which includes Cargill, Eli Lilly & Co., Novartis, Pharmacia & Upjohn (Monsanto), Pioneer Hi-Bred (Dupont), Ortho-Biotech, Northern States Power, Minnesota Dept. of Trade & Economic Development. They got Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton to oppose it. Minneapolis joins a handful of local governments across the country that have passed similar resolutions. For more information, see www.purefood.org or phone the Organic Consumers Association, 218-226-4164.