Follow-up

by Laura Paskus

Chalk one up for endangered species. For the last five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ignored citizen petitions to list endangered species if a plant or animal is already on the agency’s "candidate list." Currently, there are 280 candidates, none of them protected under the Endangered Species Act owing to a lack of money or time. But in June, Judge Reggie B. Walton, a recent Bush appointee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that the policy of dismissing citizen petitions as "redundant" is illegal.

Genetically engineered salmon don’t play well with others, particularly when they’re hungry (HCN, 6/23/03: Genetic engineering turns salmon into fast food). A Canadian study has shown that when transgenic coho salmon ("frankenfish" that grow seven times as fast as regular salmon) are put in tanks with their normal counterparts, everything’s fine — until the food runs short. Once the scientists cut the food supply to mimic natural conditions, the transgenic coho not only hogged it all, they also ate the smaller salmon.

There’s a new kind of corn in Colorado: In early June, researchers from Iowa State University planted a crop of experimental corn at a secret location on private land in the northeastern part of the state (HCN, 6/23/03: Is it a farm – or a pharmacy?). The 90-by-40-foot plot holds about 2,000 plants that have E. coli genes spliced into their DNA.

Researchers, who had previously planted the controversial crop in Iowa, hope to create an edible vaccine that will prevent diarrhea.

What’s bad for New Mexico may now be bad for Nevada, too. Radioactive contamination from Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technical Area-18 has worried activists for decades. And after September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Energy began to worry that the facility and its five nuclear reactors could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks (HCN, 11/24/03: Little Boy vs. Fat Man). Now, the agency is accelerating plans to ship weapons-grade plutonium and enriched uranium to the Nevada Test Site. The project, which will begin in September, is part of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham’s new initiative to "bolster security" at the nation’s nuclear facilities.

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