In the biggest defeat yet for biotech crops, Monsanto scrapped plans to roll out genetically engineered wheat, reflecting environmentalists' opposition and fears among some farmers that using it would bar them from access to European and Japanese markets, where consumers continue to have concerns. Monsanto had genetically altered the wheat so it could withstand the effect of its Roundup weedkiller. The company will push ahead with marketing of its less controversial gene-altered corn, cotton, soybeans and canola.
Riggs Bank agreed to pay a civil fine of $25 million for repeated failures to report suspicious financial transactions, as required by federal law. In its consent order, the government said Riggs had failed to report the transfer of more than $1 million from an account controlled by Equatorial Guinea to one of its own managers, as well as millions of dollars of cash withdrawals from accounts of Saudi diplomats. Earlier, Joe Allbritton, Riggs's controlling shareholder, had agreed to resign as a director of the bank's holding company.
In a last-ditch effort to revive stalled global trade talks, the European Union and the United States offered to eliminate all subsidies for agricultural exports and reduce internal support to farmers. A group of developing countries, led by Brazil and India, welcomed the move but warned it would not break the impasse unless there were also moves to eliminate tariffs and quotas that severely limit agricultural imports of sugar, beef, citrus and other key products by the United States, Europe and Japan.
Health Insurance Allies
Dozens of large companies, including McDonald's, Marriott and Lockheed Martin, will join forces to negotiate for lower group health insurance rates for workers and their families who don't qualify for company-sponsored coverage. Wal-Mart, the country's largest employer, declined to participate, but three large insurers said they would bid for the business. Meanwhile, presidential candidates stumped for their competing health plans, reflecting growing anger over skyrocketing health costs.
Corporate Tax Breaks
The Senate voted to repeal a tax break for exporters that had been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization. Instead, the Senate would lower the corporate tax rate on domestic manufacturing profits from 35 to 32 percent, while doling out new breaks to energy producers, horse breeders, NASCAR tracks, trial lawyers and movie studios. The cost of all the new breaks is three times that of the repealed export subsidies, to be paid for by closing other loopholes. The House, however, may have other ideas.