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JIM HIGHTOWER Dinner by DuPont The question is no longer “What’s’ for dinner?” but “What’s in dinner?” t o don’t have to be Oprah Winfrey to be revolted by Mad Cow Disease, E.coli and other exotic contaminants creeping into our food supply, courtesy of the industrialized practices of today’s corporate cowboys. But if you find this worrisome, wait ’til you bite into the Brave New Dinner being cooked up in the laboratory by DuPont, Dow, Monsanto and other chemical giants. The Wall Street Journal ports that these corporations which brought us such blessings as Agent Orange and Astroturf are now spending billions to buy up biotech firms, boasting that within a short time, “Seventy-five percent of the food we eat will come from genetically engineered crops.” As a DuPont executive gushed, “The next Silicon Valley is plant biotechnology.” Oh, yum. The chemical boys say they can improve on nature, engineering new genes into our food that will cure everything from cholesterol to osteoporosis, whether you have those problems or not. Or, they say, they can mimic nature, turning soybeans into fake sirloin, chicken nuggets and crab. Yes, but why? Will their faux food be cheaper? Get real. Will it have the full complex of nature’s nutrients? They’re not even researching that. What about people whose bodies are harmed by these exotic genes? Tough luck. Will consumers even buy this stuff? Not if they’re given a choice. And there’s the rub. The companies’ lobbyists have stopped any regulation requiring labeling of food with altered genes. In other words, you don’t have a choice, because they’re not telling which food is from nature, and which is from the lab. If they’re going to mess with Mother Nature, they should have to tell us. The Union of Concerned Scientists is leading the charge for consumer labeling. Contact them GUTTING THE FDA Whether on toothpaste or breakfast cereal, you can bet that when a “New and Im proved!” label appears on a package, it means you’ll pay more and get less. Congress has learned this art of deceptive packaging, too. Hence, Newt Gingrich’s 1995 proposal for a new tax giveaway to the privileged was labeled the “Job Creation Act.” Likewise comes the “FDA Modernization Act of 1997” a twisted bit of legislation that “modernizes” the Food & Drug Administration’s consumerprotection regulations about like a tornado modernizes a trailer park. This bill was not even written by a member of Congress. Instead, it’s primarily the product of lobbyists for the giant manufacturers of drugs and medical devices. The industry put up $34 million in campaign contributions and, in turn, the Republican leadership of Congress allowed the lobbyists to “modernize” the laws regulating their own industry. No consumers were allowed to participate in this rewrite and no public hearings were held. The Health Research Group of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog organization, looked into it and found these uglies written into the new law: Instead of the FDA reviewing safety claims of a medical device, now the manufacturer can select and hire its own private tester a brother-in-law deal if I ever saw one! Also, it used to be that at least two clinical investigations were necessary to OK a drug’s effectiveness and safety; now, only one is required. The industry re-write also says that keeping track of the performance of heart valves and other high-risk medical devices is now optional, rather than mandatory. Finally, the new law tilts the regulatory process itself against us consumers and patients. To learn more about this regulatory gut job, call Public Citizen’s Health Research LOW-BALL IMMIGRATION According to park rangers, a tourist to the Grand Canyon actually asked: “Was this man-made?” Well, the middle class these days finds itself in a hole that’s even deeper than the Grand Canyon, and, yes, their hole is manmade, dug by global corporate executives and their puppets in Washington. A current example of this hole-digging is a special immigration visa that allows thousands of skilled foreign workers to come to America each year to take high-tech jobs here. Wait a minute aren’t these high-tech jobs the very ones we’re being told are “the future” for American workers? Yes! Indeed, they tell us not to worry about the massive loss of manufacturing jobs from our country, because the U.S. “information industry” is creating new, high-paying positions for what they call “knowledge workers.” But that very industry is now using the government’s H-1B visa program to bring in 65,000 “foreign” workers to take these positions and Silicon Valley lobbyists are demanding that Washington allow even more foreigners to get these high-tech visas. Both Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich want to please big campaign contributors like Bill Gates of Microsoft, so Washington is about to expand the number of H-1B visas to 100,000 immigrants a year. Are there no Americans who can do this work? Of course but the computer giants don’t want to pay a decent salary for engineers and programmers, and hungry immigrants from India, Russia and elsewhere will do the work for half the going rate paid to skilled Americans. Once the foreign workers get into the country under this temporary employment visa, the companies can then sponsor them for permanent employment status completely shutting out American applicants for these jobs, and knocking down the salary level for all other high-tech jobs in the U.S. It’s a win-win for the executives and the politicians and a lose-lose for our own workers and our country. El Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor and Texas Agriculture Commissioner who preaches the populist gospel nationwide on his daily Hightower Radio show. MARCH 27, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15