ScienceScope

Science  17 Aug 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5840, pp. 883
  1. Germany Plans New GM Rules

    1. Gretchen Vogel

    BERLIN—Proposed new rules governing genetically modified (GM) crops in Germany have disappointed many researchers and farmers. Germany already has one of Europe's strictest laws, and the center-right agriculture minister had raised hopes last year for a reprieve (Science, 1 December 2006, p. 1369).

    But the new proposal, issued last week, has managed to disappoint both supporters and opponents. GM advocates complain that a new 150-meter buffer zone between GM and conventional crops (300 meters for organic crops) has no scientific basis and will make it impossible to plant GM crops in western Germany's small, patchwork fields. And as before, farmers and researchers would have to pay damages if a neighbor finds stray genes at harvest time. The law also retains the public database of all GM plantings, providing sometimes destructive protesters with a road map. Plant geneticist Frank Ludewig of the University of Cologne, who spent more than a year filing paperwork for a field trial of GM potatoes, says he had expected biotech-friendly changes. “My first thought was, 'No, this can't be true,'” he says. Opponents say they want the buffer zones to be at least 800 meters with no exceptions. A parliamentary vote is expected in September.

  2. Paulson: Edit Out Credit

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Before signing a research and science education bill last week (Science, 10 August, p. 736), President George W. Bush said he would continue to push for a priority that's not in it: making the corporate “research and development tax credit a permanent part of the tax code.” But next door, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appears to be less supportive of the idea. Last month, in a white paper, Paulson said that lower corporate taxes and a simpler system could obviate the need for the research credit. The current credit, he said, “creates complexity”: time-consuming paperwork and exhaustive audits. “[T]he administrative difficulties erode the positive incentives [for research] the provision provides,” the paper said.

    Has Paulson jumped ship? No, says IBM lobbyist Linda Evans. “The treasury secretary is looking long term,” she says, whereas the White House has more near-term thinking. (A treasury spokesperson did not return calls.) Paulson's ideas are unlikely to get much traction in the Democratic Congress, where a focus is on making the credits permanent; bills that would do that have more than 100 cosponsors between the Senate and House versions, but they've gotten no hearings.

  3. Bank On It

    1. Jocelyn Kaiser

    Supporters of biomedical research have hatched a new scheme to boost the flat budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH): savings bonds. A bill introduced in the House last week by Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM) and two colleagues would create special Treasury “health research” bonds. When the bond is cashed in, the buyer would forfeit 10% of the interest, which would go to the NIH institute of his or her choice. If officials managed to persuade a fifth of U.S. bond buyers to purchase the special securities, NIH would get $158 million a year—a 0.5% drop in the bucket for the $29 billion NIH but far more than the $7 million a year currently raised by a special breast cancer research stamp. The Association of American Medical Colleges has endorsed the bill, which is now in the Ways and Means Committee.

  4. Penny-Pinching at NASA

    1. Andrew Lawler

    NASA science chief S. Alan Stern is looking to squeeze more data out of his budget for missions, which is likely to be flat for a while. Before, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), for example, was slated for 6 years of extensive tests after it begins flying on a Boeing 747. Now Stern wants SOFIA, which made its first test flight in April, to begin sending back data almost immediately by staggering those tests.

    NASA also intends to shorten the Kepler Mission to detect extrasolar planets, with an optional extension. Stern said in a press conference last week that he's considering using extra room on board scheduled missions—a cheaper alternative than building large spacecraft.

  5. Help Wanted

    1. Constance Holden

    Running California's $3 billion stem cell program should be a plum job, but it's proving tough to fill. Some of the reasons are tough conflict-of-interest requirements and a history of administrative strife. Board chair Robert Klein says there are also “some incredible individuals who were not prepared to give up their laboratories.” So to fill the gap left by Zach Hall, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has named neuroscientist Richard Murphy, until recently head of the Salk Institute in San Diego and a former member of the CIRM board, as interim president. Murphy says he plans to launch a program for disease-oriented research grants.