Multinational Monitor

MAR 1998
VOL 19 No. 3


Pentagon Welfare: The Corporate Campaign for NATO Expansion
by William Hartung

Fields of Nightmares: The Not-Yet Eliminated Global Landmine Industry
by E.J. Hogendoorn

Guarding the Multinationals: DSL and the International Private "Security Business"
by Pratap Chatterjee


Living Downstream
an interview with
Sandra Steingraber


Behind the Lines

Executive Decisions

The Front
Domesticating Big Tobacco - The Anti-Child Support Act

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Trade Watch
Recolonizing Africa

Money & Politics
The Oil Royalty

Their Masters' Voices
Whipping the Minimum Wage

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

A Recycled Victory

The General Services Administration (GSA), the main buying agency for most parts of the U.S. federal government, has decided that it will start respecting the law.

In February, the GSA said that it would start supplying only recycled paper to federal agencies as soon as its existing paper inventory runs out.

This will bring the agency in compliance with a 1993 Executive Order that requires federal government agencies to buy recycled paper.

In 1997, less than 40 percent of government paper was recycled.

The new policy represents a complete about-face for the agency. In December, GSA Federal Supply Commissioner Frank Pugliese, Jr. openly scoffed at the Executive Order, saying, "Executive orders are executive orders. Big deal" [see "The Clinton-Industry Cluster: EPA and Business Assure a Future of Dirty Paper Making," Multinational Monitor, January/February 1998]. Pugliese also announced in December that the procurement agency was planning to abandon even its policy of offering recycled paper to federal agencies at a lower price than virgin paper.

Environmentalists applauded the GSA policy switch. "This is a very good decision and one that is long overdue, " says Todd Paglia, coordinator of the Government Purchasing Project.

"We have had four years of creeping increases in government procurement of recycled copier paper," Paglia says. "This is the type of action that has to be taken not only on copier paper but on other products."

Paying for Dirty Food

Over the past decade, the food industry has poured more than $41 million into the campaign treasuries of congressional lawmakers. The result: the industry has managed to kill off every bill that has promised meaningful improvement in the food safety system.

That's the primary finding of a February report, "Safety Last: The Politics of E. Coli and Other Food-Borne Killers," issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity. 

Thousands of people in the United States die each year from the food they eat, and millions more become sick. Cases of poisoning from the E. coli 0157:H7 bacterium have increased dramatically over the past decade, from virtually zero to approximately 20,000 a year. Federal officials have described the current food safety situation as an epidemic.

Yet Congress has "consistently ignored the growing threat to the public health posed" by slaughterhouses and the meatpacking industry, the producers who raise the animals, and the distributors, wholesalers and retailers who sell the products to the public, says Charles Lewis, chair and executive director of the Center.

Lewis says that "Congress has put the industry's needs before the public's."

For example, Congress sought to grant state-inspected meat equal status with federally inspected meat. Congress blocked the Food and Drug Administration's recommendations to restrict the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in animal feed.

Lewis points out that the new Department of Agriculture food inspection system, HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points) was implemented without a Congressional vote. And even this highly touted system is fundamentally flawed. Many U.S. food inspectors refer to HACCP as "Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray," according to Lewis, because it allows industry largely to inspect itself.

The report finds that the meat industry has created one of Washington's most effective influence machines, partly by recruiting federal lawmakers and congressional aides for its lobbying juggernaut.

Of the 124 lobbyists whom the Center identified as working for the meat industry in 1997, at least 28 previously worked on Capitol Hill.

The report also found that the federal program designed to protect consumers from contaminated meat products has been a "dismal failure." Only 43 percent of all meat products recalled by manufacturers from 1990 to 1997 was actually recovered, leaving the rest -- more than 17 million pounds of contaminated meat -- to be eaten, presumably, by unsuspecting consumers.

"Why, in this new age of increased microbial food contamination, does the federal government only have voluntary recall authority?" Lewis asks. "Because the meat business and Congress don't want it, that's why."

Paying for a Town

Granville, North Dakota is going on sabbatical for four years. Starting on St. Patrick's Day, the town will go by the name of McGillicuddy City.

That's McGillicuddy as in Dr. McGillicuddy's Imported schnapps. Sazerac Co., a New Orleans liquor maker and U.S. distributor of Dr. McGillicuddy's, paid $100,000 to the town to rent the name, according to Associated Press reports. The town says it will use the money to build a civic center.

Granville "won" the right to give up its name in a national contest. Sazerac's criteria were that the new McGillicuddy City must have snow at least six months of the year, a bar willing to change its name to the Shady Eye Saloon (Granville's Branding Iron Saloon has agreed) and a place to lodge visitors.

Granville was named about a century ago in honor of a railroad official.



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