Bush seeks injunction in port dispute
President George W. Bush, citing national economic health and safety, intervened in the West Coast ports lockout Tuesday, directing the U.S. attorney general to seek a federal court order to put longshoremen back to work for 80 days while mediators try to resolve the dispute between dock workers and shipping line and terminal operators.
The administration says the lockout, which began Sept. 29, affects 29 ports and 10,500 longshoremen, and has cost the economy at least $1 billion a day.
The dispute mainly centers on the introduction of new technology at the ports to speed up and improve cargo handling, and demands by the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union that any job created by its introduction be unionized.
Negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies and port operators, have bogged down, resulting in Bush taking the first step Monday in invoking the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act -- creating a board of inquiry to assess if the stalemate could be resolved.
The Taft-Hartley Act was last pursued by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 to resolve a coal miners' strike but the court declined to issue the order. A court injunction was later obtained instead.
The last port strike on the West Coast occurred in 1971 and lasted 134 days.
Activists accuse Kraft of using GMO ingredients
Environmental activists and farmers picketed Tuesday outside the Chicago-area headquarters of Kraft Foods, accusing the company of using ingredients that come from genetically engineered crops in some of its food products.
The Genetically Engineered Food Alert said Kraft used the ingredients without putting any kind of labeling on the packages to let people know.
Activists said they tested two Kraft products -- Balance Bars and Shake 'N' Bake chicken nugget mix -- and found the presence of genetically modified soybeans in both.
The activists admit they tested four other products for traces of genetically modified corn but found none. Products tested include Post Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries, Post Alpha-Bits Cereal, Fig Newtons cookies and Barnum's Animal Crackers.
But officials with the group noted that a previous study found six Kraft products containing traces of genetically modified corn.
Officials said they hope this is a sign that Kraft is phasing out use of genetically modified ingredients, and they say their protests -- including about 200 pickets at various locations throughout this week -- are intended to push Kraft towards that goal.
"Kraft may finally be listening to American consumers and removing some genetically engineered ingredients from their products as they have already done in Europe," Friends of the Earth coordinator Lisa Archer said.
"The company is aware of the public health and environmental risks posed by genetically engineered ingredients," Archer said. "We call on Kraft to make known their plans to remove these ingredients from their products and stop keeping consumers in the dark."
Supporters of genetically modified foods say they are the result of science being used to produce food products containing more of the traits desired by consumers.
Critics say not enough is known about health hazards from genetically modified foods to warrant their consumption by people.
The Agriculture Department Tuesday released tentative rules for the labeling of foods sold in the United States but produced in other countries.
Under the rules, which will be in place until permanent guidelines are set in 2004, fresh and frozen muscle cuts of beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and peanuts all much be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin.
Businesses such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars and lounges are not covered by the country of origin labeling guidelines, which were approved as part of the farm bill enacted earlier this year.
The new rules also provide guidance for products of mixed origin, including foods produced both in foreign markets and the United States, as well as labeling for blended or mixed products. Supporters of the new rules say they are meant to provide more information to consumers about where the food they eat actually comes from.
The National Farmers Union is creating a Web site intended to teach farmers and farm cooperatives how to do business on the Internet.
The Web site at E-cooperatives.com is the first to provide planning, product and marketing resources to encourage farmers and their cooperatives to sell goods and services online.
"National Farmers Union has created an innovative way for farmers and ranchers to explore an e-commerce business model that could ultimately lead to the specialty and value-added products of their agricultural cooperatives being bought and sold over the Internet," union President Dave Frederickson said.
The American Sugar Alliance would rather see reforms of the sugar market through World Trade Organization negotiations, rather than through a free trade agreement between the United States and various central American nations.
Alliance Director Jack Roney said his group has consistently supported sugar reform conducted through the World Trade Organization because it would result in consistent policies throughout the world, rather than various regional agreements.
"We have long endorsed the goal of global free trade," Roney said while testifying in Washington before the International Trade Organization. "U.S. sugar and corn sweetener producers are efficient by world standards and welcome the opportunity to compete on a genuine level playing field."
Grain futures were mixed at the close Tuesday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans fell on a combination of sluggish demand and harvest pressures.
Corn fell in beliefs price gains were overdone.
Wheat futures rose on beliefs the West Coast port shutdown will end soon. Also helping U.S.-grown wheat was word of quality problems for the Canadian crop.
Oats were lower.
Soybeans: Nov 5.35 1/4 off 4 1/2, Jan 5.40 off 4 3/4, Mar 5.42 3/4 off 4, May 5.43 off 4 1/4.
Corn: Dec 2.57 1/2 off 2 1/2, Mar 2.63 1/4 off 2 1/2, May 2.67 1/4 off 2, Jul 2.68 off 1 3/4.
Wheat: Dec 3.81 3/4 unch, Mar 3.86 1/4 up 1/2, May 3.69 up 1 1/2, Jul 3.43 1/2 up 1 3/4.
Oats: Dec 2.13 1/2 off 1/4, Mar 2.06 3/4 off 3/4, May 2.00 off 1/2, Jul 1.93 off 1 1/2.