Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics
Presentation by Steven Hill
Hanging chads, confusing ballots, purged voter's lists: They're the election problems we need to fix, right?
Not completely, says Steven Hill, of the Center for Voting and Democracy. The first thing we need to do, he says, is toss out our 18th century winner-take-all electoral system. It discourages voting, squashes creative ideas, restricts debate of important issues, encourages redistricting abuses, increases the misuse of campaign contributions, discourages candidates from running, makes it possible for a candidate to win with less than a majority of votes, and underrepresents women, minorities, third parties, and "orphaned" Democrats and Republicans living in the wrong district.
Hill, author of a new book, Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics, recently addressed an audience at the Foundation's office in Palo Alto. Here are excerpts of his talk.
What electoral system you use determines a whole bunch of consequences related to representation, participation, how campaigns are conducted, and policy that comes out of your legislature. You can take the same votes, put them through different electoral systems-district elections, cumulative voting, proportional representation, instant runoff voting, two-round runoffs-and come up with completely different results in terms of who gets elected.
When our nation was founded, we had about 200,000 voters nationwide, all of them white men of property. Today, with many more voters, of very different backgrounds, our legislatures don't look that different from those elected in the 18th century. And mostly that's due to our winner-take-all system.
In Amarillo, Texas, to settle a voting rights lawsuit, they introduced a system for their school board called cumulative voting. Instead of the traditional winner-take-all system, a voter could put all five votes on one candidate, or put three votes on one candidate, two on another, and so forth.
In the first election using this system, an African-American, a Latino, and a woman all won representation for the first time. Just by changing the voting system, they ended up with a school board that better mirrored their city's population and gave representation to communities that had been shut out. And voter turnout tripled. What a concept!
Redistricting Steals Our Votes
My book title, Fixing Elections, is obviously a double entendre. It offers ways to "fix" the problems of our democracy, it offers solutions; but it also makes the case that our elections are fixed, or rigged, in certain ways. For example, we've just gone through a process known as redistricting. Every 10 years after the census, we have to redraw all legislative district lines at local, state, and federal levels because the districts by law must be equal in population. In state after state, we saw what we at the Center for Voting Democracy call "incumbent protection plans." The lines were drawn by the incumbents and party leaders to ensure that the incumbent can win reelection handily. They were given "safe seats." It's a cozy arrangement between the two parties, where in many cases both parties agree to protect each other's incumbents. It's the voters who get shut out, and as a result our votes have become practically meaningless.
You don't even have to go to the polls any more. At our Center we've already predicted 359 out of 435 house seats for 2004-not only who is going to win, but the margin of victory! We've made predictions for the last 10 years and we've been 99.9 percent accurate. That's how predictable our elections have become, mostly due to redistricting.
Redistricting is a travesty. Using computers to slice and dice the electorate, politicians in effect pick the voters before the voters have a chance to pick them. To capture the right pockets of voters, districts are created with shapes that have been compared to earmuffs, squashed mosquitoes, splattered spaghetti sauce. And it's getting worse: Our elections are less competitive than they have ever been.
The Failure of Presidential Campaigns
Here's another example of how our elections are "fixed." In the 2002 presidential election, the outcome was in doubt only in about 11 battleground states-states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, West Virginia. To win those states, both sides had their polls to figure out which groups of voters already were for them, which groups were against them, and which voters were undecided-the "swing voters"-the latter about 10-15 percent of the electorate. In a close race, swing voters determine the outcome of the election. The candidates used polls and focus groups to determine what issues or character traits those swing voters were interested in-prescription drugs, Medicare, Social Security-and only talked about those issues during the campaign. All of the other voters and the issues they care about were left on the political sidelines. Young people and their issues, for instance, are completely sliced out of our politics because they are in the wrong demographic.
As a result, what should have been a national election, with the presidential candidates at the top of their game, debating issues of national importance, became a narrow election where the candidates talked to only a handful of swing voters in a handful of states.
The two-choice system also encourages negative campaigning. If you and I are running against each other, I win as easily by driving voters away from you as by attracting them to me. Either way I win, because if voters reject you, there is only one choice remaining: me. So to win in this winner-take-all game, you use polls and focus groups to figure out sound bites for attacking your opponent.
A technique in high-profile races is the use of "dial meter groups." You get a dozen or so swing voters in a room and show them your TV ads before airing them, or try out your speech. Each participant holds a little dial; when they hear something they like, they crank the dial to the right; when they hear something they don't like, they crank it to the left. The politicians are gathering instant information to create the sound bites they will aim back at this group of swing voters in the upcoming elections. That's where terms like "compassionate conservative" and "New Democrat" come from.
In Fixing Elections, I call George W. Bush "the anti-poll, poll-driven politician," because during the 2000 presidential campaign he was running around saying, "I don't need polls to tell you my heart, I don't need focus groups to tell you what I think." But he had polls and focus groups that told him to say that he doesn't listen to polls and focus groups!
They use these techniques all the time. In fact, when you look at the 2000 Bush campaign ads and compare them to Bill Clinton's ads in 1996, you find they were nearly the same-similar music, sound bites, visuals. Most likely, we are going to see the exact same ads in 2004, because they're targeting the same groups of swing voters. It's like the Groundhog Day of our elections, the same scene replaying over and over. Frank Rich, a New York Times columnist, called it "survival of the fakest." From now on, the successful candidate will be the one who can convey the most sincerity amongst all the fakery.
All of these disturbing trajectories of our politics are driven by the gaming incentives of our two-choice, geographic-based, 18th century winner-take-all system.
In the 2002 U.S. congressional election, only 39 percent of eligible adult voters turned out to elect our national legislature. Barely 50 percent of eligible adult voters voted in 2000 to elect the president of the United States, the most powerful elected office in the world. In fact, if we let people from other nations vote in our presidential election, you can be sure they would turn out in droves, because they know how important that office is to what goes on in their country. But here, we can muster barely 50 percent. When you look around the world, you see that countries using winner-take-all voting systems like ours have low voter turnout. However, in countries which use a system called proportional (or full) representation, voter turnout reaches 75 to 95 percent.
In proportional representation (PR), instead of electing one seat at a time like we do with our one-district, winner-take-all system, you use multi-seat districts. For example, you can take 10 of these district seats and combine them to make one larger district that has 10 seats in it. If a political party in a 10-seat district gets 60 percent of the popular vote, they win 6 of the 10 seats instead of all the seats. And if a party won 30 percent of the vote, they would win 3 of the 10 seats, instead of nothing. It's that simple. You open up the political system and allow for a multi-party, multiple-choice democracy, which represents more points of view. And that in turn affects not only representation, but participation, regional balkanization, the quality of campaigns, and policy passed by the legislature.
For example, in the U.S. Congress today only 14 percent of the members are women. In Sweden, where they use PR, 45 percent of their national parliamentarians are women. Wales, a country which has been electing its legislature for only six years, recently became the first nation with 50 percent women representatives, using PR. Germany is interesting because they use both our district-based system and a PR system in the same election, so you can compare the results produced by different electoral systems. In the district elections, German women won 13 percent of the seats, about the same as the U.S.; in the proportional system they won 45 percent of the seats, for a combined 32 percent in the national parliament. And research has shown that the presence of women in legislatures affects what kinds of policy gets passed by the legislature, particularly in terms of social policy, health care, and more.
If we used a random lottery to pick representation in our country, minorities would win about 28 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives because that's what the combined Latino, African-American, Asian, and Native American population is. So what percentage do minorities have in the U.S. House? It's about 14 percent, about half of what it should be if our legislatures represented our national diversity. In the U.S. Senate, there are no blacks and no Latinos.
To make this seem OK, we've come up with a convenient piece of what I call "winner-take-all propaganda." It says that the person who sits in the chair represents you no matter what their gender is, or what their race is, no matter if they are diametrically opposed to your point of view, or even if you voted for her or him. Somehow, that person still "represents" you. But in nations using PR, just about everyone wins authentic representation. So you don't see the huge drop-off among young people that you see in our system. One of the nationally elected parliamentarians in Germany is 19 years old; another is 23 years old. In Sweden, a 19-year-old was elected; in New Zealand, a 25-year-old. These candidates can go out and talk to young people, and engage them and get them involved. Why? Because they are a young person. What a concept!
But in our winner-take-all system, the candidates still are pretty much white guys in neckties. I have nothing against white guys in neckties; I happen to be one myself. But when your electoral system can't produce a diversity of candidates who can appeal to voters where they are, talking about their issues, you lose the connection between voters and the politicians. So finally many voters give up.
Most of the established democracies in the world today use one proportional system or another. There are different types, both partisan and nonpartisan. By deciding what percentage of the vote it takes to elect a representative, countries can fine-tune their democracies. Some countries have a 1 percent threshold, or even lower. Some believe that creates too much diversity, and problems. Each nation is different, but a "victory threshold" of around 4 to 6 percent turns out to be a happy medium, resulting in five or six parties that will win representation. Two major parties still win most of the seats, but you also have a cluster of smaller parties that play the role of being the "laboratory for new ideas," bringing healthy debate and fresh ideas into the political process.
Instant Runoff Voting
For single-issue elections, like mayor, governor, or president, a better system than our current "highest vote-getter wins" method is called instant runoff voting (IRV). Voters get to pick the candidate they like but they also gain the option of ranking a second and third choice. If your first choice doesn't win, your vote goes to your second choice, and so on. The goal is to elect a winner that has support from a majority of voters, and to get it over in one election. With IRV, the 100,000 Ralph Nader voters in Florida would have had the option of ranking a second, that is, a runoff choice. And no doubt, tens of thousands would have ranked Al Gore as their second choice, and we would have a different president right now, one that had a majority of votes in Florida. Instant runoffs mean that more candidates can run and not be spoilers in the political system.
Australia, Ireland, and Britain use instant runoff voting to elect different offices. The Utah Republican Party uses IRV to nominate its congressional candidates, because they want the strongest candidate to win and to get it over in one election instead of calling everybody back for a second election. In recent years, many universities have begun using both IRV and proportional voting to elect student government. You can start using IRV in whatever groups you're involved in to elect officers, or to do endorsements, and give people real world experience in how it works. That's the key to moving forward with methods like IRV.
Other Needed Changes
In the U.S., we vote on the first Tuesday in November, something that comes from the 1840s when President Polk tried to make it easier for farmers to vote. The Tuesday tradition doesn't make sense anymore. It's not in the Constitution, and we should change it. Most nations vote on a holiday or a weekend.
The Electoral College is obsolete. It takes a constitutional amendment to change it, and that would be very difficult. But states can decide for themselves how to allocate their electors by changing state law, which means a state may use instant runoff voting, or another method called "proportional allocation." If a candidate gets 60 percent of the popular vote, they win 60 percent of the electoral votes for that state, not all of them. A candidate with 40 percent of the popular vote wins 40 percent of the electoral votes, instead of nothing.
Election administration has been a problem for many years. I share some of the concerns about computerized voting, but not all of them. The new computerized equipment offers significant advantages over the older technology in terms of helping voters to prevent mistakes on their ballot, such as the over-votes and under-votes that plagued Florida and other states in 2000. In Brazil, a large, multi-racial nation of 170 million people which does not have the level of literacy we have here, their elections are completely computerized. The voter enters the booth, hits a button for the candidate they want, and a photo of that candidate comes up on the screen. The voter can visually verify their selected candidate. Why are we playing catch-up to Brazil, in terms of election administration?
So this kind of technology holds great promise, even while there are legitimate concerns regarding security. Whatever we need to invest to make this technology secure, we should do it. We'll just have to proceed cautiously, making sure everything works properly.
Also, we need a beefed-up public broadcasting sector, and inclusive presidential debates. And we need public financing of elections and to curtail soft money expenditures. Now, with redistricting producing such predictable elections, donors give money to the candidates they know are going to win. What they buy is access to legislators, rather than elections.
But most of all, we need to decide whether we will have an active and engaged citizenry-a participatory democracy- or whether we will live with merely a kind of "ratification" democracy where citizens only rise up at the ballot box when riled by an offensive government policy, or repugnant personal behavior by a politician or party leaders, or by an external threat.
This is a fundamental question that cuts to the heart of who and what will shape our society, and what our society will look like in the future. Our 18th-century winner-take-all system and its exclusive reliance on a two-choice, geographic-based system will ensure the ongoing deterioration of our politics. More modern methods like instant runoff voting and proportional representation are better suited to large populations and the pluralistic society we have become. We should think carefully about continuing to use 18th-century-voting methods in the 21st century.
Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics by Steven Hill
Rouledge, New York. 2003. $18.50, paperback; www.FixingElections.com
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We Wanted to Believe
Editorial by Mac Lawrence
I've spent time with a number of people recently who either live in Europe, or who have just come back from extended stays there. They all report the same thing: Europeans think the U.S. is out of its mind. Not the American people-the current administration.
How can so much of the world view what the U.S. is doing as crazy, while most Americans—at least according to the polls—think we're doing the right thing?
Perhaps it boils down to fear. The attacks of 9/11 brought a new level of it to the U.S. Our president acted boldly to assure us that he would make us safe. We wanted to believe him. But, at least in the case of the war on Iraq, more and more of what he told us turns out to be either questionable or outright fabrications.
By now we ought to realize that politicians don't always say what they believe, or believe what they say. Those in power have an agenda they want to carry out. What they tell us has a spin to it. It always does. They say things for a reason. They believe their reason is right and that the spin is necessary. They hire top-notch public relations professionals who are masters at presenting selected information to the people. Every administration does it.
So, in a way, it's hard to blame the Bush administration. They did what they needed to do to build a case for war that fit with their view of the world—a war that records show those in control in Washington had wanted for some time, long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. These folks see the world and America's role in it in a certain way. With a strong enough military, they say, the U.S. can maintain itself as the world's sole superpower, and keep our nation safe. There are bad guys out there who threaten us. We have to be strong enough to take care of all of them, with diplomacy if we can, with force if we need to.
History has shown that posture never works. Other than the death and destruction it causes, it's bad psychology: people don't react well to threats. It works much better to make friends out of everyone, including enemies. Cooperation works better than confrontation. Do unto others. You catch more flies with honey. A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.
So how did it happen that so many Americans bought the war talk? Many blame the U.S. press for going along unquestioningly with whatever came out of Washington. Gwynne Dyer, a London-based independent journalist, whose articles are published in 45 countries, notes that while "some awkward questions are being asked at last...where were all these newspapers and politicians in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq? You had to be willfully blind not to know at the time what they are now discovering in such breathless shock—that the U.S. and British governments were telling brazen lies in order to manipulate their peoples into supporting the war.
"Even now," Dyer wrote, "the new doubters confine themselves to specific issues like Blair's claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes and Bush's reference to (forged) documents about alleged Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa. In both cases, the official defense has been to blame the intelligence services for the false information (which is a fine reward for serving up the conclusions that the governments wanted). But never mind the details. The whole story was incredible."
Added Dyer: "Why would anybody in their right mind have believed that the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, completely dismantled by United Nations arms inspectors in the early '90s, could have revived despite sanctions since the U.N. arms teams were withdrawn in 1998, and have advanced so fast that it already posed an urgent threat to America and Britain by 2003? How did thousands of journalists swallow the story that Iraqi nuclear weapons were a threat so urgent that they justified defying the U.N., aborting the renewed inspection process, and launching a 'preventive war'?
"Disbelieving such a fantastical story was not an ideological choice; it was just common sense," Dyer noted, because even if he had nukes, Hussein had no way of delivering them. Dyer also noted that for months prior to the war, "people high up in the intelligence world were desperately signaling from behind the curtain that the story being peddled by their political masters was not what the professionals really believed at all."
Dyer's comments, though strong, are typical of what is being said now about the failure of serious newspapers like the Washington Post and the London Times to question government claims. There was a "post-9/11 chill," notes Dyer, when "dissent was widely seen as unpatriotic, and so the most blatant lies went unchallenged." He adds that this chill still exists, restricting "the range and tone of stories in the U.S. media, and will probably continue to do so unless the aftermath in Iraq gets completely out of hand."
Of course, you cannot blame it all on the press and the politicians. We the people have to become more discriminating, not let fear make us numb, and think through what we're told. We can no longer automatically believe the CEOs of major corporations, some of whom have lied to us; some are even in jail. Energy companies and major accounting firms have betrayed us. Stock market analysts, for their own gain, have given us advice they knew was bad. By now, we should be wary of the information we get.
So we might have wondered a bit when the government kept raising and lowering the alert levels just at the time we were about to attack Iraq. Yellow level, orange level, yellow level, orange level. We might have been slower to accept the term "coalition forces" when it was really only the U.S. and a few Brits.
We might even have questioned the use of the term Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). As Sheldon Richman, senior fellow at the Future of Freedom Foundation (hardly a liberal group), observed: "It should be kept in mind that until recently chemical and biological weapons have not been regarded as weapons of mass destruction. This is a category deliberately broadened for rhetorical purposes—to spook the American people into supporting an offensive war against a government that did not attack them or, indeed, even show signs of wanting to.
"Why are chemical and biological weapons not classified as WMD? Because it is difficult—although not impossible—to use them to kill large numbers of people. Weather and other conditions have to be just right. A shift in wind can send a poisonous cloud back over one's own forces. Killing masses of people is far easier with conventional bombs such as those used by the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia. The power to define is the power to control. Some of the most lethal weapons on earth are held by the U.S. government but are not classified as weapons of mass destruction. Yet if even one vial of old anthrax is found buried deep in the ground in Iraq, it will be proclaimed as proof that Hussein had an arsenal capable of killing multitudes. This would be propaganda, not rational analysis."
No wonder, then, that President Bush included in his State of the Union address what he now calls "just 16 little words" falsely accusing Iraq of seeking to buy nuclear material from Africa. The nuclear threat was a key in talking the American public into backing the war.
If we're concerned about what our country does in our name, it makes sense to question what we're told. With the Iraq situation in mind, perhaps more of us will begin to assess what's going on in the light of such questions as: Just how does war bring peace? How does our use of violence make us safer? How does increasing our military spending while cutting back on health and education make us stronger? How does something like the Patriot Act add to the freedoms we hold so dear?
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Ethanol: No Free Lunch
Report by Gregson Vaux
Is there a fuel that will come to save us from our dependency on petroleum? Some tout ethanol (ethyl alcohol) as one which has great promise. Gregson Vaux, of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, agrees with other scientists who question its practicality.
There exists a concern among environmentalists, some political leaders, and a fraction of the general population that the United States' methods of generating power need to change. The concerns expressed include: the emission of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, other environmental harm, and future energy shortages as resources are depleted.
The alternative method of providing power covered in this paper will be ethanol. It will be argued that ethanol is not sustainable, does not reduce greenhouse gases, and is actually an energy sink.
It is tempting to believe that the production of ethanol is a relatively easy way to convert sunlight into corn, which is then converted into ethanol, which can be used as an automotive fuel. However, corn and other crops such as sugar cane, which can be fermented to make alcohol, are energy-intensive to grow, and rely on fossil fuels. To produce a modern crop requires petroleum to plant and harvest the crops, petroleum-based fertilizer to increase crop yields, and petroleum-based pesticides. After harvesting, more fossil fuels must be used to ferment and distill the crop into ethanol. When all energy has been accounted for, 1 gallon of ethanol will provide 77,000 BTUs, but 131,00 BTUs of fossil fuel are needed to produce the ethanol. Thus, ethanol consumes more fossil fuel than it can replace.
The next issue is how much farmland would be needed to provide enough biomass to replace fossil fuels. The United States (year 2000) contained 400 million acres of cropland. Each acre can produce 7,110 pounds of corn a year, which can then be converted into 328 gallons of ethanol. An average U.S. automobile would use 852 gallons of ethanol per year, which would require 2.6 acres of cropland. The U.S. contains 200 million cars, so 520 million acres of farmland would be needed to provide fuel for the American fleet. Put another way, the United States would need 30 percent more farmland than is currently being used to grow enough corn to power its cars, and this is assuming that oil is being used to grow and harvest the corn crops. There is also the problem that all the farmland would be used to grow crops for ethanol and none would be left to grow food.
It is possible to use biomass other than corn or sugarcane, such as wood, to make alcohol, but this is also not an option on any large scale. There is, first, the related issue that modern tree farming uses fossil fuels to harvest, transport, and process the wood into alcohol. If we are to ignore the use of fossil fuels, there is still the issue of land being dedicated to make alcohol.
World energy usage today is on the order of 12 TW. If the world economy is to grow as expected, 15-30 TW will be needed by 2050. However, if we were to dedicate all of the available farmland in the world to produce alcohol, it would only produce 10 TW and there would be no land left for food production. Again, this is assuming that fossil fuels will be used to grow and process the biomass.
While growing corn or sugarcane may seem an environmentally friendly way to fuel automobiles, the farming methods used to produce ethanol are unsustainable. Modern farming is water intensive and consumes 25 percent more groundwater than is replenished by rainfall. In addition, growing corn erodes soil 12 times faster than it is reformed. There is also the issue of poisoning the environment with the use of pesticides and fertilizers. It has been the use of petrochemicals that has brought about the green revolution, and when they are no longer used, crop production will likely be reduced, perhaps drastically.
While ethanol as a fuel may benefit corn growers, it is not an energy solution, because it uses more energy than it produces and it would remove too much farmland from food production if ever implemented on any meaningful scale.
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Genetically Engineered Food: Blessing or Curse?
Report by Susan Stansbury
For thousands of years, farmers maximized crop productivity by saving seeds and breeding plants that were best adapted for their particular environment. The result was a rich variety of crop species, providing a vast array of culinary sights and flavors— a testament to the earth's abundance.
In the 1890s, a new era in agriculture began with the work of Gregor Mendel, who studied traits in plants to identify independent genetic units, now referred to as genes. This opened the way for the manipulation of crops by cross-pollination, and eventually to today's science of genetic engineering.
Until the 1970s, the advancement in agricultural genetics stayed within the realm of what could happen naturally. But then the new science of genetic engineering moved into agriculture. Scientists began clipping genes from the DNA of one plant or animal species (using specialized enzymes as the scissors), and inserting them into the DNA of another species, producing a transgenic, or cross-species, variety. In order to get the foreign gene to successfully invade the host gene, it is inserted with bacterial vectors and antibiotic-resistant genes. These genes serve as markers, helping to identify those cells where the foreign genes have integrated successfully.
The ability to grow Genetically Engineered (GE) food, however, has generated concern on the part of the public and hot debates within the scientific community itself. GE advocates scored a major victory in the U.S. when, in 1992, the Food and Drug Administration went against the advice of many of its top scientists and issued a policy statement that genetically engineered foods are similar to those produced by traditional plant breeding, and are "generally recognized as safe." This policy, recommended by then Vice President Dan Quayle's Competitive Council, allows corporations who are developing food to do much of their own safety assessments. In addition, there are no labeling laws that require indicating when a food contains GE components. Today, some 60 percent of all processed food in the U.S. is estimated to contain GE ingredients.
There is no single federal agency that controls all aspects of GE foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees food safety, does not look at the safety of GE foods containing pesticides, because pesticides are out-side their scope. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers only the impact of the food on people, including the effects of GE-inserted pesticides. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible only to make sure the crops grow in the way the manufacturer says they will.
GE Food Concerns
The ability to produce and patent GE foods has expanded the role of large corporations in controlling the foods we eat. In 1998, Monsanto, a leader in both pesticide production and genetic engineering, bought up a number of large seed companies: DeKalb Plant Genetics, Cargill's international seed business, Delta and Pine Land, and Plant Breeding International, making Monsanto the world's second largest seed company. This creates two major ethical issues: one is the monopolization of our food supply; the other is that a corporation marketing seeds also sells chemicals, and thus has an inherent interest in creating a market for its pesticides.
Other concerns involve the lack of proper labeling. People with allergies to certain types of food cannot be sure the food they eat is free from ingredients that are dangerous to their health. If animal genes are inserted into vegetables, vegetarians may be unwittingly eating animals; Muslims and Jews may be eating pork. Others may see the insertion of genes of one species into another as a religious issue in and of itself. Without labeling, this fundamental right of consumers to choose what they eat for dietary, religious, or ethical reasons is jeopardized. Unlike other items, food is not an optional product. It is integral to the functioning of our own bodies. To many people, something so basic as the genetic makeup of food should not be kept secret from the public.
GE Impact on Organic Food
The consumer market for organic food is growing, showing that more and more people will pay more for food that is more nutritious and better for the environment. However, GE crops threaten even this right to choose, since transgenic crops cannot be completely isolated. Seeds and pollen from transgenic crop sites are carried by winds, birds, and other wildlife, into the larger environment and potentially to organic farms.
Another threat to organic farming occurred in 1999, when the federal government tried to redefine "organic" to include GE food. When 280,000 consumers wrote letters and signed petitions protesting this proposed definition, the administration backed off, at least for the present.
Pesticides and Herbicides
In Thailand, the issue of "gene pollution" threatened their traditional culture. Monsanto had arranged with the Thai government to plant test fields with cotton, which contained the Bacillus thuringiensis ( Bt) bacterium, a naturally occurring pesticide. Monsanto splices Bt into crops such as corn and cotton for pest resistance. The Institute of Traditional Thai Medicine raised concern that many of their plants in the cotton family are used by traditional healers, and they feared the test fields would pollute the naturally growing medicinal plants. Faced with this concern, the Thai government cancelled the tests.
A long-term concern over Bt transgenic crops is that the targeted pests will evolve to resist Bt, so that Bt will no longer be effective as a means of pest control. Bt is important for farmers growing crops organically and using integrated pest management techniques. Bt resistance would be devastating for controlling such pests as the Colorado potato beetle, which can quickly destroy a crop if not controlled. Many farmers use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to outsmart the beetle. They rotate crops, practice mixed crop methods, even going so far as to vacuum up the live beetles. They use Bt sparingly as a last resort. Upon ingesting Bt, the beetle is paralyzed and its digestive system shuts down. The GE one-pest/one-pesticide approach goes against the wisdom of IPM, which was developed as scientists and farmers learned that the one-pest/one-pesticide approach didn't work. Pests readily adapt to familiar chemicals and become resistant. It is hard to underestimate the destruction a Bt-resistant pest, such as the Colorado potato beetle, would have.
Bt crops also can affect beneficial insects. In 1999, Cornell scholars announced the results of a study of Monarch butterflies. Monarchs travel through the Corn Belt of the Midwest, and millions of caterpillars eat the milkweed near the cornfields. In the Cornell experiments, Monarch butterfly larvae were raised on milkweed dusted with pollen from Bt corn. Half of the larvae died within four days. Another control group of larvae ate milkweed not exposed to pollen from Bt corn. None of the larvae in this second group died. Despite these findings, there are already some 20 million acres of Bt corn planted in this country.
In January 2000, the FDA responded to public pressure by requiring Bt corn growers to plant 20 percent non- Bt refuges within a half mile of the Bt crops. They are also asked to voluntarily plant non- Bt corn around the edges of their crops to reduce the gene pollution into butterfly habitat. Although this is a positive start, voluntary measures may not be enough to protect the Monarch or other beneficial insects.
Two-thirds of the world's transgenic crops are now made with the trait of herbicide tolerance. These seeds are used in fields sprayed with herbicides such as Roundup, which will kill everything but the crop-plant itself. One of the big concerns with these GE crops is the chance that they may breed with closely related weeds and create genetic "superweeds." In September 1998, researchers at the University of Chicago released a study showing that when they planted normal Arabiopsis thaliana (a mustard species which usually self pollinates), a transgenic A. thaliana, and a naturally occurring, herbicide mutant-variety, the transgenic plants were 20 times more likely to outcross-pollinating with other plants and causing superweeds-than the mutants. The researchers don't under-stand why this occurred, but suggest that there should be more research before these plants are released into the environment.
Sterile Seeds and Superweeds
In 1998, the USDA and Delta and Pine Land, a seed company now owned by Monsanto, came up with a solution for both the concerns about seed copyrights and the potential of superweeds, by creating a sterile seed. While potentially solving one problem, sterile seeds create another. Food security activists dubbed them "Terminator seeds." This approach is in direct conflict with saving and sharing seeds for the next planting season and with naturally breeding hybrids that are suited for the particular bioregion in which they farm. With sterile seeds, farmers are dependent for their livelihood on large agribusiness for the seeds and the corresponding chemicals. This especially impacts the small farmer. Since 1998, this technology has moved rapidly forward. Astra Zeneca has developed a seed that cannot germinate or reproduce without chemicals. Due to their chemical dependence, opponents have dubbed them "junkie plants."
Feeding the World?
Agribusiness' major claim to justify the rapid introduction of biotechnology is that GE foods combat world hunger. They argue that without biotechnology, we will not be able to feed the growing population. However, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) along with dozens of nonprofits who are focusing on the issue, disagree, noting that in many countries around the world, GE foods increase the rate of hunger. They note that farmers who were once self-sufficient and provided food to the local region, are now converting to GE and luxury crops for export, believing they are more profitable. After making the switch, however, they often find themselves in debt and not even able to feed themselves. This also leaves many other people in the region, who are often poor, without a source of staple foods, since they are unable to afford the imported food in the marketplace. The number of people who do not have access to food because they simply can't afford it is estimated to be 1.2 billion.
Switching to GE foods also negatively impacts many small farmers who cannot afford to keep their land and farms going because "leasing" seeds each year is too expensive. These farmers either go to the cities to find work or seek work on larger farms owned by someone else. Already living a subsistence lifestyle, these farmers and their families often end up more impoverished and hungry than they were previously.
Other arguments against GE crops as a solution to world hunger include the rate of failure of the crop itself, soil sterility from planting monocultures (fields containing all one species of crop), pesticide runoff, soil erosion, and susceptibility to insect infestations (another result of monocultures). These crops are not adapted to the climate and soil conditions unique to each region, but rather are created for global distribution.
What People Can Do
Public outcry in Europe and India has been effective in convincing governments to restrict the import of GE food and technology. This has even led financial publications such as the Wall Street Journal to claim that the industry is "dead" and a risky investment. In the U.S., Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are among the supermarket chains committing to selling only GE-free ingredients in their product lines. Such products are labeled "GMO-free." Shopping at stores with these policies is one way to avoid unintentionally eating GE ingredients, while also using our collective purchasing power to demand GE-free foods.
The growing movement to increase the amount of locally, organically grown food is another way to avoid GE foods. The Community Food Security Coalition in the U.S. is working on ways to promote comprehensive, systems-oriented solutions to the nation's food and farming problems. This movement to take food security issues back to the local level helps unravel the grip that multinational corporations have on our food supply. Part of the vision is to help people around the world convert back to locally grown, sustainable farming by combining traditionally successful practices for their region with new information in sustainable agriculture.
One of the most successful models for local, sustainable agriculture is Cuba, which was forced to become self-sufficient due to trade embargoes and the end of Soviet support. Out of necessity, the country replaced the monocultures grown for export with staple crops. They were also forced to largely give up pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and to switch back to organic farming methods. In the city of Havana alone, there are some 80,000 edible landscapes. Now many people are travelling to Cuba to learn from their successes and replicate the model elsewhere.
The Long View
Studies of how life evolved over billions of years, and how systems work, have demonstrated how little we understand of the complexity of nature. We don't know how living organisms inserted with foreign genes will interact with the greater environ- ment and survive over generations. What we do know is that once these transgenic species are released into the environment, we cannot control them. In this light, many people are concerned that genetic engineers, who have a technical under-standing of how to manipulate the structure of DNA, do not have an adequate understanding of the systems in which it is embedded. This lack of understanding is typical of the reductionist thinking which has dominated much of recent science. It is now seen as having limited applicability in the real world of complex, interrelated Earth systems. It is becoming ever more apparent that these systems are far more complex than our cumulative knowledge base.
We need to address the issue of feeding the world in an integrative way—one that respects cultures, the earth, and the right of every individual to have access to healthy food. With this framework, we will be able to better apply our creativity and technology to solve one of the world's most fundamental problems.
Susan Stansbury is director of the Valley of Heart's Delight project at the Foundation for Global Community.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
This is a partial listing, compiled by the Center for Food Safety, of processed foods that tested positive for genetically engineered ingredients.
Frito-Lay Fritos Corn Chips
Bravos Tortilla Chips
Kellogg's Corn Flakes
General Mills Total Corn Flakes Cereal
Post Blueberry Morning Cereal
Heinz 2 Baby Cereal
Enfamil ProSobee Soy Formula
Similac Isomil Soy Formula
Nestle Carnation Alsoy Infant Formula
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
Nabisco Snackwell's Granola Bars
Ball Park Franks
Duncan Hines Cake Mix
Quick Loaf Bread Mix
Ultra Slim Fast
Quaker Yellow Corn Meal
Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix
Alpo Dry Pet Food
Boca Burger Chef Max's Favorite
Morning Star Farms Better'n Burgers
Green Giant Harvest Burgers (now called Morningstar Farms)
McDonald's McVeggie Burgers
Ovaltine Malt Powdered Beverage Mix
Betty Crocker Bac-Os Bacon Flavor Bits
Old El Paso Taco Shells
Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
The Center for Food Safety, 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 302, Washington, DC, 20003 202-547-9359. Website: www.centerforfoodsafety.org
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Make Mine Organic, Please.
Chimps at Denmark's Copenhagen Zoo are going ape over organic bananas and other fruits, rejecting non-organic foods left in their cages.
Copenhagen Zoo, which hopes to be awarded a "green label" as an environmental zoo, began last year feeding its animals at least 10 percent organic products. "The tapirs and chimpanzees are choosing organically grown bananas over the others," zookeeper Niels Melchiorsen told the magazine Oekologisk Jordbrug (Ecological Agriculture). "The chimpanzees are able to tell the difference between the organic and the regular fruit. If we give them organic and traditional bananas, they systematically choose the organic bananas, which they eat with the skin on. But they peel the traditional bananas before eating them." Unfortunately, we humans have to read the label.
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Trashing the Environment with a Thousand Cuts
by Walt Hays
Since September 11, 2001, the American public has placed its primary focus first on the threat of terror and then on the events leading to the war in Iraq. In doing so, many have not taken in the reality that the administration of President George W. Bush has become the most anti-environment administration in memory.
The President began by filling key positions with people who have a history of strong opposition to environmental regulation. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, for example, came from one of the most anti-environmental organizations in the country, the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Those appointees, with help from the President and the Republican Congress, have since engaged in a determined and consistent campaign to destroy or weaken all the landmark laws passed after the first Earth Day in the 1970s, including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (the law that requires environmental impact reports on major projects).
The aggressive and systematic nature of the assault has resulted in almost daily actions dismantling laws to protect health and the environment. Yet while polls show that the public may have a vague perception that the administration is weak on the environment, for the most part they don't grasp its radical extent and destructiveness.
An article by journalist Debbie Gilbert in the Gainsville Times summarizes the situation well. She quotes Brent Martin of Georgia Forest Watch: "We've had major rollbacks, but they've managed to get all this stuff in under the radar. Everything has been subsumed by war coverage, and no one is listening. I think we're looking at an administration that's far worse than the [former Interior Secretary James] Watt years under Reagan. But they're subtle about it. They take a logging plan and call it the Healthy Forests Initiative. They take a plan that allows more air pollution and call it the Clear Skies Initiative. With good PR and speechwriters, you can make it sound pretty. But it's a farce."
One example out of many of the radicalism and subtlety of the administration's approach is the recent decision to terminate further study of any federal lands for possible designation as wilderness, thereby in a single stroke opening up more than 200 million acres to mining, drilling, logging and road-building. The typically drastic but stealthy nature of the action was exposed in an article by Timothy Egan in The New York Times: "If the Friday night declaration [arguably timed to avoid media] represents the beginning of a broad new land management policy, the Interior Department has not said so. There was not even an announcement of the end of the wilderness reviews on the department's Website."
Egan continued: "Instead, the change came about in a settlement of a 1996 lawsuit filed by the State of Utah....The move follows a consistent pattern in the president's environmental policy: to change the way land is managed, without changing the law. Whether the issue is allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park or logging in the Pacific Northwest, the course has been to settle lawsuits brought by opponents of wild land protection, thereby opening up the areas to wide use, without going to Congress to rewrite the rules....'They are trying to declare, by fiat, that wilderness does not exist,' said Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness coalition."
Though that kind of stealth, together with the fog of terror and war, has made it difficult if not impossible for the public to grasp the enormity of destruction taking place, leading environmental organizations are keeping a close tab. One of the best sources is on the Website of the Natural Resources Defense Council, www.nrdc.org, under "Bush Record" by date. Each action is summarized in a short sentence, and a click on that sentence produces several paragraphs of elaboration. They also list the few favorable actions by the administration, such as EPA Administrator Christie Whitman's December 2002 decision to cut diesel pollutants. (Whitman has since resigned.)
In a recent talk to the Palo Alto Rotary Club, the new chairman of the California Republican Party discussed his challenges in improving the party's image. In so doing, he acknowledged that some people for some unknown reason have the perception that the Bush administration's environmental record is not as strong as it might be. To counter that perception, he noted that the administration dropped its legal efforts to force oil drilling off the California coastline. While that kind of statement might mollify some who don't follow the news closely, it would seem unlikely to do so for anyone familiar with the wreckage documented by the NRDC. Those few examples are dwarfed by the long list of negative actions, of which the listing in the boxes below is slightly edited for brevity.
_ Bush seeks to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.
_ White House announces regulatory freeze.
_ New raw-sewage rules delayed by Bush regulatory freeze.
_ Administration seeks to weaken efficiency standards for air conditioners.
_ Bush administration to try to adjust the boundaries of 19 new national monuments.
_ President nominates J. Steven Griles as deputy secretary of Interior.
_ Fish and Wildlife Service withdraws call for protection of endangered salmon and trout.
_ Bush retreats from campaign promise to reduce carbon pollution.
_ Bush administration seeks to roll back Roadless Area Conservation Plan.
_ Bush withdraws new arsenic-in-drinking-water standard.
_ Bush administration delays hard-rock mining regulations that protect watersheds.
_ Bush administration rejects Kyoto Protocol.
_ Bush administration suspends the "contractor responsibility rule."
_ Bush seeks to relax requirements of Endangered Species Act.
_ Interior will not reintroduce grizzly bears into Idaho, Montana wildlands.
_ EPA drops objections to Florida rule that undermines Clean Water Act protections.
_ Vice-President Cheney meets with industry executives to sketch out an energy policy.
_ Bush launches a "sneak attack" on the Roadless Area Conservation Plan.
_ Bush administration refuses to release information on industry participants in Cheney energy task force.
_ Bureau of Land Management fails to comply with agreement to protect threatened desert tortoises.
_ Secretary of Agriculture undercuts forest management process.
_ Bush administration formally suspends arsenic-in-drinking- water protections.
_ Boundaries of some protected public lands may be "redrawn" to allow drilling and mining.
_ EPA announces final radiation standards for Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
_ Bush adminstration will not change fuel efficiency standards.
_ Bush will open Gulf of Mexico tract to offshore drilling.
_ Bush administration budget cuts for international global warming programs more significant than reported.
_ Bush outlines an "all talk, no action" approach to global warming.
_ White House favors limiting president's authority to protect federal lands, an authority exercised by previous presidents.
_ Bush seeks to weaken federal environmental enforcement.
_ EPA wants to scrap air pollution regulations for power plants.
_ Army Corps of Engineers to weaken wetlands protections.
_ Tongass and other national forests open to roadbuilding, logging.
_ Bush administration appeals federal judge's decision to ban drilling off California's coast.
_ Forest Service stalls roadless protection, allows logging to continue.
_ Secretary of Interior Norton reneges on agreement to protect endangered desert tortoise.
_ Bush administration considers recycling nuclear waste into scrap metal for consumer products.
_ Bush backs away from pledge to clean up federal facilities.
_ U.S. Forest Service to reduce public participation.
_ Corps of Engineers official uses terrorist attacks as excuse to weaken environmental protection.
_ White House rule change could inflict "paralysis by analysis" on regulatory process.
_ Forest chief asks Secretary Norton to end Oregon mining ban.
_ Norton guts tough mining protections.
_ EPA issues an arsenic-in-tap-water standard higher than that recommended by public health advocates.
_ Corps of Engineers ignores "no net loss" wetlands policy.
_ Bush administration shutting down Everglades restoration office.
_ Forest Service makes hasty salvage logging decision, forces court battle.
_ White House plans deep cuts in environmental spending.
_ EPA may lift ban on human testing of pesticides.
_ Voyageurs National Park reopening areas to snowmobiles.
_ DOE weakens standards for Yucca Mountain nuclear storage.
_ Forest Service guts protections for undeveloped forest lands.
_ Bush administration bends rules for favored coal company.
_ Bush administration plans to get ready to resume nuclear weapons testing.
_ Bush administration fighting for new oil drilling off California coast.
_ Corps of Engineers relaxes wetlands protections; White House approves.
_ Park Service okays drilling expansion in Florida preserve.
_ Bush administration changes science on polar bear impacts to suit Arctic drilling.
_ Bureau of Land Management backs gas drilling in national monument.
_ Agency pushes oil exploration near Utah park.
_ Bush administration continues to refuse to release energy task force records.
_ Bush slashes environmental education spending.
_ Bush unveils "slash and burn" budget for 2003.
_ Bush to boost logging in national forests.
_ Bush using Everglades plan to target endangered species.
_ Park Service wants motorized access in Georgia wilderness.
_ Bush announces rollback of power plant pollution rules.
_ Bush backs Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste dump.
_ National Forest in Missouri opened to drilling.
_ Bush administration seeks to weaken endangered species protection in California.
_ Snowmobile ban dealt another blow.
_ Bush administration intends to shift Superfund cleanup from polluters to taxpayers.
_ Top EPA official resigns in protest of Bush's pro-polluter policies.
_ Bush administration fails to boost automobile efficiency.
_ White House ends environmental research funding.
_ Bush administration promotes coal-bed methane development.
_ Bush administration scales back habitat protection for endangered butterfly.
_ Bush administration to ax Northwest Forest Plan.
_ White House moves one step forward, two steps back, on chemical treaty.
_ Corps of Engineers approves Everglades mining.
_ Forest Service seeks to circumvent environmental laws.
_ Bush administration fails to protect manatees.
_ Bush clean air plan would boost coal use.
_ Administration's plan allows overfishing in New England.
_ Bush administration speeds up drilling in Rockies.
_ Bush administration ousts top global warming scientist.
_ EPA watchdog resigns in protest over Bush policies.
_ EPA charged with understating impact of Yucca Mountain nuclear dump on Nevada drinking water supplies.
_ EPA to let mining industry dump waste in waterways.
_ Corps of Engineers' plan threatens to pollute Florida Everglades.
_ Bush budget cuts billions from natural resources spending.
_ Bush administration agency secretly fights mine reforms.
_ Bush asks judge to suspend decision halting mountain removal mining.
_ Bush signs disastrous farm bill.
_ Forest Service advises against protecting wilderness in Alaska's Tongass.
_ Bush administration lifts ban on mining in Oregon national forest.
_ Bush administration rolls back air conditioner energy efficiency standards.
_ Bush administration lets construction companies off the hook for protecting environment.
_ Bush administration refuses to crack down on diesel pollution.
_ On offshore drilling, Bush administration won't give Californians the same relief it gave Floridians.
_ EPA signs off on safety of all but two of 30 pesticides.
_ U.S. signs off on endangered salmon harvest.
_ Missouri River restoration put on hold.
_ EPA rolls back clean air protections for power plants.
_ Bush administration backtracks on land preservation.
_ EPA backs off mandatory plan to clean up stormwater pollution.
_ Bush administration blames wildfires on environmentalists.
_ Snowmobiles to be restricted, not banned in national parks.
_ Bush slashing EPA funding for toxic cleanup.
_ Bush administration revokes habitat protection for California frog.
_ Bush administration stalls on global warming solution.
_ White House backs delay in river changes.
_ Navy's sonar threatens whales.
_ Bush administration opposes renewable energy requirement.
_ Bush's revised Everglades plan falls short of restoration goals.
_ Fish and Wildlife Service reneges on manatee protection plan.
_ Bush administration plans to give away oil and coal holdings in Utah.
_ Another EPA official resigns in protest over Bush policies.
_ EPA rolls back Clean Water Act's water cleanup program.
_ Bush skipping U.N. Earth Summit.
_ Bush administration backing away from California coastal protection.
_ Bush administration employs stonewall strategy at World Summit.
_ Bush administration weakens whale protections that hinder oil and gas industry.
_ Interior Department allows more air pollution at national park.
_ Bush calls for increased logging in the name of fire prevention.
_ U.S. undermines renewable energy proposal at World Summit.
_ Federal officials reject call to add white marlin to endangered list.
_ EPA air quality enforcement sinks to new lows.
_ EPA backs off issuing strong anti-pollution standards for off-road vehicles.
_ BLM's plans for California desert favor commerce over conservation.
_ Bush replacing health scientists who don't favor industry views.
_ Bush administration plans to lift federal protection on wolves.
_ Bush administration rewriting rules to boost logging in Northwest.
_ White House blocking conservation funding for farms.
_ Yosemite park official resigns in protest.
_ BLM approves oil and gas drilling in Utah.
_ EPA admits clean water takes back seat to war on terrorism.
_ Bush stacks panel on lead poisoning with industry experts.
_ Bush administration sides with auto industry against lower emissions.
_ Former EPA official blasts Bush commitment to enforcement of clean air rules.
_ Whistleblower says Bush administration pressure forced inadequate salmon protection.
_ EPA halts funding at several Superfund sites.
_ Bush officials suppress science on Klamath River policy.
_ EPA no longer making polluters pay.
_ Federal courts overturn habitat protections, per Bush request.
_ Bush officials intervene to silence objections to coal plant near Mammoth Cave National Park.
_ Bush administration supports renewed elephant ivory trade.
_ Interior plans to limit environmental reviews for grazing.
_ Bush administration opens national park to drilling.
_ EPA proposes weakening of Clean Air Act.
_ Forest Service rewriting rules to increase logging, remove wildlife safeguards.
_ Bush administration fosters policy of delay on global warming.
_ EPA factory-farm rule favors polluters.
_ White House discounts human life in cost-benefit analysis.
_ White House begins process of relaxing government regulations for industry.
_ Bush administration backtracking on policy of "no net loss" of wetlands.
_ EPA exempts oil and gas industry from stormwater pollution rules.
_ Forest Service loosens logging restrictions for small-scale projects.
_ Bush administration blamed for Klamath River fish kill.
_ Bush administration pushing to lift grizzly bear protection.
_ Bush administration paves way for new roads in parks, wilderness.
_ EPA seeking legislative "fix" to let air polluters off the hook.
_ Despite scientific concerns, Interior Department approves power plant near Yellowstone.
_ Bush administration planning to remove federal protection for America's wetlands and small waterways.
_ Defense Department targets environmental laws.
_ Bush administration says logging good for wildlife.
_ Bush administration to revisit spotted owl protections.
_ Environmental experts nixed from international development agency.
_ EPA sticking with unsafe perchlorate standard for dry cleaners.
_ Ignoring health risks, EPA chooses not to ban dangerous weed killer.
_ California's giant trees threatened by Bush forest plans.
_ Bush administration wins court victory on mountaintop removal mining.
_ Sierra Nevada forest protections under fire by Bush administration.
_ Polluting industries getting off easier under Bush administration.
_ Bush administration seeks waiver on ozone-destroying pesticide.
_ General Accounting Office faults EPA oversight on factory farms.
_ New EPA air rules for ocean vessels too weak.
_ Office of Management and Budget (OMB) pushes for industry-skewed cost-benefit analysis.
_ White House fuel cell plan ignores today's oil insecurity.
_ Bush administration wins sweetheart water settlement for wealthy California farmers.
_ Bush administration pushing for pesticide exemptions from international environmental treaty.
_ Spotted owl denied federal protection despite additional logging threat.
_ EPA plans to relax toxic air pollution standards.
_ BLM opening sensitive Wyoming lands to drilling.
_ National Park Service overturns ban on snowmobiles in national parks.
_ EPA delays report on mercury risk for children.
_ Bush administration sets sights on drilling in Western Arctic Reserve.
_ Bush air pollution plan weakens current law, threatens public health.
_ EPA seeks to weaken endangered-species protections.
_ Department of Transportation to expedite more environmentally harmful road projects.
_ Bush administration rejects wilderness protection in Alaska's Tongass.
_ National Park Service sends Yellowstone bison to slaughter.
_ Defense Department seeking exemptions from environmental laws.
_ EPA exempts oil and gas industry from water pollution rules.
_ Forest Service to double logging in Sierra Nevada forests.
_ EPA allows sludge dumping in Potomac River to continue for seven more years.
_ Bush administration proposes stripping protections for endangered wolves.
_ EPA changes fish data to allow more pollution.
_ EPA backtracks on pledge to close loophole for California air polluters.
_ Interior Department favors boosting offshore drilling by reducing corporate costs.
_ EPA reports record drop in fuel economy.
_ White House bans EPA from discussing perchlorate pollution..
_ White House unveils its pro-industry chemical security bill.
_ Forest Service permits grazing in violation of federal law, says judge.
_ New Missouri River management plan imperils protected birds.
_ Independent panel challenges Bush administration air pollution policies.
_ White House favors offshore oil drilling in Alaska.
_ Bush administration considers delaying endangered species protection.
_ EPA cleaning up far fewer toxic waste sites.
_ EPA cracks down on diesel pollution.
_ BLM moves to overturn drilling ban in Alaska's Western Arctic Reserve.
_ BLM to relax permitting process for oil and gas development.
_ Bush administration rolls back wilderness protections.
_ U.S. Fish and Wildlife signs off on plan to reopen Imperial Dunes to off-road vehicles.
_ Interior Department paves way for new roads on federal lands in Utah.
_ EPA stifles staff objections to Pentagon pollution exemptions.
_ Bush administration abandons protection plan for California coastal treasure.
_ Corps of Engineers keeps oil spill secret, citing national security concerns.
_ Bush administration short-changing endangered species protection.
_ Bush taps another timber industry insider for environmental post.
_ New U.S.-Mexico pollution treaty lacks funding to make a difference.
_ Bush administration begins diverting water from Klamath River -where salmon kill occurred-to farmers.
_ Bush administration giving away federal water rights in national park.
_ Bush administration ends court battle over California off-shore drilling.
_ White House buries mountaintop mining regulation.
_ White House forest-fire plan axes environmental protections.
_ Park Service opens Maryland seashore to Jet Skis.
_ Interior giving up on endangered species protection.
_ EPA failing to keep track of water quality.
_ Bush administration cuts wildlife protection, boosts logging in Northwest forests.
_ BLM opens fragile dunes ecosystem to off-road recreation.
_ GAO chides Department of Agriculture for lax enforcement of wetlands protections.
_ National security, privatization put chokehold on funding for parks.
_ Pentagon accused of covering up perchlorate pollution.
_ GAO report on forest fires a blow to Bush administration policies.
_ EPA proposes easing, delaying smog control rules.
_ White House transportation plan steamrolls environmental protections.
_ Park Service pushes for personal watercraft on Lake Powell.
_ Fish and Wildlife Service signs off on mining in Montana wilderness.
_ Navy's illegal use of sonar blasts dolphins, whales in Puget Sound.
_ EPA secretly considering amnesty for livestock farm polluters.
_ Energy Department illegally approved Mexican power plants, says judge.
For the latest information check www.nrdc.org under "Bush Record"
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TIMELINE (ISSN 1061-2734) is published bimonthly
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