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Biotech tests given go-ahead, look-see.

Biotech tests given go-ahead, look-see

Field-testing for two groups of genetically engineered bacteria--one designed to retard frost formation on strawberries, the other to increase nitrogen fixation in alfalfa--has been the subject of recent actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On Feb. 11, the EPA reinstated a field-testing permit toAdvanced Genetic Sciences of Oakland, Calif., for its study of bacteria with a specific gene deleted. These bacteria, which lower the temperature at which frost forms on plants, have been a major part of the continuing controversy over field release of altered bacteria. The company's original permit was suspended last year when EPA discovered an open-air test of the bacteria had been conducted without the agency's permission (SN: 6/7/86, p.366). But new data from the biotechnology firm, indicating the bacteria are harmless to strawberries, prompted EPA to reconsider, and to approve three potential test sites in California.

EPA also received its first "premanufacture notification'subject to EPA regulations published in June 1986. The notification announces proposed field-testing by Cambridge, Mass.-based BioTechnica International, Inc., of genetically altered strains of Rhizobium meliloti, bacteria responsible for nitrogen fixation in alfalfa. The new strains provide the plants with more nitrogen than those occurring in nature. Following a 90-day review of public comment and of research information submitted by the company, EPA officials will decide whether to grant a permit for field-testing the new bacterial strains.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 21, 1987
Words:233
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