Science  27 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5432, pp. 1337

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  1. Saber-Rattling

    In a move that one researcher calls a “crude attempt to intimidate,” an environmental group is warning British scientists and biotech executives that they could be personally liable for damages caused by genetically modified (GM) crops. Friends of the Earth (FOE) chief Charles Secrett last month sent letters to officials at more than 30 companies, research centers, and universities, warning that they could be “legally liable” for allergies or other problems caused by GM crops.

    But in a public response, one of FOE's targets last week said the threat is misdirected. Accusing the group of “deep ignorance,” Donald O'Nions, administrative head of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, said that his institute does basic research, not plant development.

    Still, FOE believes that individual researchers “should not be able to hide behind a corporate veil,” says Secrett. Whether FOE can make good on its threat, however, is in doubt. In general, European laws do not hold employees personally liable for damages caused by their companies.

  2. Testing, Testing

    The debate over animal testing in India took a new turn this week when a court gave permission for a biotech company to resume testing of its immune-system drug on a new batch of monkeys. The ruling comes 2 weeks after an earlier test was disrupted by the government-sanctioned release of 50 monkeys from a national facility that failed to meet new animal welfare rules (Science, 13 August, p. 997).

    Shantha Biotechnics in Hyderabad claims it lost $25 million due to the 9 August raid, which freed monkeys from the National Center for Laboratory Animal Sciences (NCLAS). The High Court of Andhra Pradesh in Hyderabad has now ruled that the tests can resume with new animals—and “no interference” from animal welfare organizations.

    Varaprasad Reddy, Shantha's managing director, says he is “relieved and happy” with the order. But he says it fails to address a government split which pits the Animal Welfare Board against the Indian Council of Medical Research. And the Blue Cross Society, which was instrumental in the raid, says it is not opposed to testing if NCLAS improves living conditions for the monkeys.