Science  27 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5662, pp. 1271

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  1. Indian Lunar Probe Goes Global


    NEW DELHI—India wants its upcoming mission to the moon to be an international affair. Last week the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that there was room for a 10-kg payload on its orbiting lunar probe and that Canada, Russia, and Israel have already expressed interest.

    Chandrayaan-I, scheduled for a 2008 launch, will spend 2 years mapping the lunar topography and conducting spectroscopic studies from 100 kilometers above the surface. This month the Indian government gave ISRO a down payment of $18 million for the mission, about one-fifth of the total cost. The probe is not expected to be delayed by this week's fire at ISRO's solid propellant plant on Sriharikota Island off India's southeastern coast, which killed six people.

  2. U.K. Court Quashes Bangladesh Arsenic Case

    CAMBRIDGE—A U.K. appeals court has tossed out a claim that the British Geological Survey (BGS) should have warned Bangladeshis a decade ago about high levels of arsenic in their drinking water. The 20 February decision stems from a BGS survey in the early 1990s that tested 150 irrigation wells in central and northeastern Bangladesh for 36 compounds. Researchers did not look for arsenic, however, because they didn't expect to find it (Science, 16 May 2003, p. 1066). Two years ago, Binod Sutradhar, a Bangladeshi carpenter diagnosed with arsenic poisoning, sued the survey, claiming it had “a duty of care” to look for the chemical, which is linked to skin diseases and certain cancers. He claimed that a BGS report implied that the water was safe to drink.

    In a 2-to-1 decision, the U.K.'s Court of Appeal blocked a trial, ruling that the relationship between Sutradhar and BGS was too remote to justify a duty of care. Sutradhar's lawyer says he will appeal the decision to the House of Lords, the U.K.'s upper house of parliament.

  3. Still No Fusion for ITER

    The six nations planning the $5 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) still can't agree on a site. A meeting in Vienna, Austria, last week failed to produce a compromise that would allow backers to select either Cadarache, France, or Rokkasho, Japan (Science, 13 February, p. 940). The parties intend to try again next month, when negotiators plan to take an especially close look at each site's supposed flaws. Japan, for instance, claims that Cadarache is too far from shipping ports, and Europeans warn of earthquakes in Rokkasho. Despite the high stakes, Japanese official Satoru Ohtake says the negotiations are cordial. “We don't go out drinking,” he says, “but maybe we should.”

  4. GM Genes Go to Seed

    There's apparently no holding back the transplanted genes of genetically modified (GM) crops. A report released this week by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that transgenes have contaminated the seeds of several U.S. staple crops.

    The group looked at 18 commercial non-GM varieties of corn, canola, and soybeans and found that DNA from GM crops was pervasive at low levels in many of the varieties. Overall, the report suggests that between 0.05% and 1% of this conventional seed produced each year may be contaminated.

    It's not known how the seeds became contaminated. The parent plants could have been exposed to GMpollen, or processors may have accidentally mixed in GM seed. The report urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine the extent of contamination with a full-scale testing program, among other recommendations.

  5. Chemists Challenge Rule

    In an open challenge to the U.S. government, the American Chemical Society (ACS) last week lifted its ban on papers submitted to ACS journals from countries under a U.S. trade embargo. The society instituted the ban last November following a ruling by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that journals need a license to edit submissions from Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Cuba (Science, 5 December 2003, p. 1639).

    ACS decided to go back to “business as usual” after “concluding that the OFAC ruling was a violation of the First Amendment,” says Robert Bovenschulte, head of the society's publishing division. ACS will “absolutely not seek a license,” he adds. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Society for Microbiology, meanwhile, have applied for a license but have not yet received one.