Genetic Breakthroughs

January 10, 1986

Report Outline
Regulating Biotechnology
Reshaping Agriculture
Disease-Control Potential
Special Focus

Regulating Biotechnology

Taking First New Life Form Out of Lab

Sometime early this year an invisible organism, nicknamed “ice minus” by its creators, will make history—provided a federal judge doesn't bar the lab door. For the first time ever, scientists plan to take a new life form out of the laboratory and release it in the environment. After months of study, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the release last November, saying it expected no harm to come from the experiment.

It involves a genetically altered strain of bacteria that, in its natural state, is almost everywhere. The altered version, created by Advanced Genetic Sciences Inc. of Oakland, Calif., lacks a protein that is essential for ice crystals to form. Its mission is to keep frost from forming on a small field of strawberry plants in Salinas Valley. As unspectacular as the experiment may seem, it has been hailed as the dawning of a new age in biotechnology. After more than a decade of experimentation in the laboratory, genetic engineering of living organisms finally is ready to emerge as a force capable of reshaping the natural world.

But there are some who contend we are not ready to let the genie out of the bottle. Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, is the most prominent among them. He has filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., to block the ice-minus experiment. Rifkin sued the University of California in 1983 to halt a similar experiment, and since then tests of living biotech products have been on hold. The latest action challenges both the regulatory process that led to authorization of the experiment and its environmental safety.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Sep. 15, 2017  Medical Breakthroughs
Jun. 19, 2015  Manipulating the Human Genome
May 31, 2013  Patenting Human Genes
Jan. 21, 2011  Genes and Health
May 15, 2009  Reproductive Ethics
Oct. 22, 2004  Cloning Debate
May 18, 2001  Designer Humans
May 12, 2000  Human Genome Research
Dec. 17, 1999  Embryo Research
May 28, 1999  DNA Databases
Apr. 03, 1998  Biology and Behavior
May 09, 1997  The Cloning Controversy
Dec. 08, 1995  Gene Therapy's Future
Apr. 08, 1994  Reproductive Ethics
Oct. 18, 1991  Gene Therapy
Aug. 16, 1991  Fetal Tissue Research
Jun. 30, 1989  Solving Crimes with Genetic Fingerprinting
Apr. 03, 1987  Biotechnology Developments
Jan. 10, 1986  Genetic Breakthroughs
Dec. 26, 1980  Genetic Business
Mar. 25, 1977  Genetic Research
May 19, 1971  Human Engineering
Aug. 20, 1969  Human Intelligence
Dec. 13, 1967  Genetics and the Life Process
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Agricultural Research
Biology and Life Sciences
Genetic Disorders and Medical Genetics