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Altered bacteria released.

Altered bacteria released

Last week, scientists sprayed bacteriadesigned to protect plants from frost on a strawberry field in northern California. It was the first authorized outdoor release of genetically altered bacteria in the United States. The experiment, conducted by Oakland-based Advanced Genetic Sciences, Inc. (AGS), took place after a California Superior Court judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the test at the request of environmental groups.

By splicing the genes in the bacteriumPseudomonas syringae, scientists at AGS and elsewhere had developed bacteria that retard ice crystal formation on plants. Plans to test the bacteria in field trials several years ago started a continuing controversy over the safety of such a release and where it should occur (SN: 1/25/86, p.56). The Environmental Protection Agency had fined AGS for injecting the bacteria into trees growing on a laboratory roof in 1985, but AGS's field-testing permit recently was reissued. Similar tests planned by the University of California at Berkeley have hit an equally rocky road to approval (SN: 6/7/86, p.366).

In Brentwood, where the test tookplace, the frost season is long gone, but scientists will study how the new bacterium survives "in the wild'--also a primary concern of a coalition of groups, led by the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., which has filed repeated suits and petitions to stop the test.
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Title Annotation:genetically altered bacteria to protect plants from frost
Publication:Science News
Date:May 2, 1987
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