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Frost-free bacteria lawsuit.

The first signs of spring in the air are making University of California scientists, as well as backyard planters, eager to begin their gardening. But the field-test plans of Steven Lindow and colleagues at Berkeley are still up in the air. The U.S. Court of Appeals must decide whether the scientists will be allowed to perform their field test of spraying sixteen 40-foot rows of potato, tomato and snap beam plants with a common plant bacterium genetically engineered so that it cannot trigger ice formation. They propose that such bacteria could reduce frost damage on crops (SN: 8/27/83, p. 132).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the federal agency that has been regulating reseach of genetic engineering, has now filed a motion for a partial stay of last spring's preliminary injunction (SN: 5/26/84, p. 325) that has prohibited the University of California experiments. These field tests, originally planned for autumn 1983, had already been postponed by a threat of legal action. The argument brought against NIH was that the agency had failed to prepare an "identifiable environmental document." NIH has now submitted to the appeals court a 60-page "Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact."

If the court grants a partial stay of the preliminary injunction, the director of NIH would then reconsider the experiment for approval and the university would request an experimental use permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. The NIH motion asks for a quick decision, noting, "Since this field test can only be conducted when the temperature is at or near freezing, the experiment would be delayed for yet another season if approval were not possible by the first part of May 1985."
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Title Annotation:genetic engineering
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 2, 1985
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