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What's Good for G.M. Foods Is Bad for the Country

The U.S. government isn't likely to require labels on genetically modified foods, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said Monday. "I, at this stage, do not see any of what I call mandatory or regulatory activities taking place from the government which will order anybody to do anything with respect to these issues, whether it's labeling or anything else," Glickman said at a news conference, in a defense of the status quo. American consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about genetically modified foods, which are now sold throughout the U.S. without any way for people to differentiate them from traditional foods. Citizens …

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Zed, last of his species, in "Wakey Wakey!"

What's two-feet-tall, yellow, funny, and desperately looking for a date? Introducing Zed, a critter who's the last of his species, thanks to global warming. He's now the star of a weekly Grist Magazine comic strip.

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The French Are Fly

The French government is proposing a tax on carbon emissions that would help the country meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto climate change treaty. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's legislative package, to be presented next week, will include the tax, which would take effect in 2001 and apply to France's state-owned power utility, makers of steel, cement, and glass, and other industries. Jospin's package will also contain about 100 other measures intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including a plan to reduce the use of cars in urban areas. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the French government will …

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And other words from readers

Re: Such Stuff as Dreams Aren't Made On Dear Editor: I loved Donella Meadows's confession and ode to stuff, junk, and accumulation. Like so many others, I could identify with her remarks. The column made me think of one of Henry David Thoreau's quotes from the "Economy" chapter of Walden, which, of course, I could find on my own cluttered bookshelf. Thoreau speaks of the misfortune of those who have property and become farmers -- though his remarks speak to all of us with too much stuff. He wrote: "I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to …

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Down the Hatch

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt today will ask Pres. Clinton to create at least four new national monuments, including two in Arizona and two in California. Some 1 million acres northwest of Grand Canyon National Park, tens of thousands of acres near Phoenix, 10,000 acres south of San Jose, and thousands of small, uninhabited islands off the California coast would be protected from many forms of development under Babbitt's recommendations, which Clinton is expected to act on early next year. Republicans, including presidential candidate Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), are already protesting any such move by Clinton, which would not require congressional …

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Dead in the Water

Scientists fear that an ecological disaster may be unfolding off the coast of North Carolina, following in the wake of Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd, which dumped some three feet of rain on the eastern third of the state in September. Flooding from the hurricanes washed loads of pollution and organic matter out to sea -- including raw sewage, hog waste, fertilizers, decomposing vegetation, and topsoil -- threatening the biologically rich waters between the mainland and the Outer Banks barrier islands, the second largest estuary in the U.S. When the water in the estuary warms up next spring or summer, vast …

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The Answer Is Blowin' in the Wind

The U.S. wind power industry got a boost last week from news that congressional negotiators agreed to extend a tax credit for electricity produced from wind and some other renewable sources. The credit, which had expired on June 30, is estimated to reduce the cost of wind power by 1.3 to 2.0 cents per kilowatt hour. Wind energy can now be generated for around 4 to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, before taking into account the credit, compared to the cost of fossil-fuel energy at about 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The University of California at Irvine released a report …

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Young and the Restless

Two longtime Congressional enemies -- Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and George Miller (D-Calif.) -- teamed up yesterday to successfully push a bill through the House Resources Committee that would earmark about $2.9 billion dollars in offshore oil drilling royalties each year for environmental protection. The money, some $2.5 billion more than is currently spent from oil revenues on conservation, could be used for land acquisition, coastline protection, creation of urban parks, and preservation of wildlife. Young fought off amendments from conservative Western Republicans that would have weakened the bill. The measure faces a tough fight going into the full House, …

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Willy Wonks and the Toxic Factories

Orca whales in the waters around Washington state and British Columbia are severely contaminated with PCBs, which can weaken the animals' immune systems and hamper reproduction, according to a comprehensive, new study by Canadian and American scientists. Researchers took samples from 47 killer whales and found that they are 400 to 500 times more contaminated than humans. "These killer whales can now be considered among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world," said Peter Ross of the Institute of Ocean Sciences. PCBs, a long-lasting industrial compound, were banned in Canada and the U.S. in the mid-1970s, but are still …

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Can't Bear the Thought

Tension is rising in British Columbia as timber companies begin to log what many call the Great Bear Rain Forest along Canada's western coast, a vast, largely undisturbed old-growth area comprising one quarter of the world's remaining temperate rainforest. Arguing that the economy needed a boost, the British Columbia government recently slashed logging royalties to get the cutting started in this area, which enviros have dubbed "the Brazil of the north." Tour operators, native groups, and Canadian and American environmentalists are all working to fight the logging. The economy in British Columbia is gradually shifting away from timber dependence, with …

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