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picking plastic in the garden

ST. LOUIS - Genetic engineers have taken a major step toward giving plants the ability to produce environmentally friendly plastics. Those are plastics that break down harmlessly in a landfill. Biochemists can do this already using bacteria that feed on plant-produced raw material such as glucose from corn. But bacterial plastic production is expensive. Now Kenneth Gruys and colleagues at Monsanto Company in St. Louis have taken four relevant genes from bacteria and put them into thale cress and oil seed rape. These plants can produce a desirable plastic directly, but the yield is low. Reporting their work in the October issue of Nature Biotechnology, the Monsanto team says they may need to transfer a couple more bacterial genes, among other improvements, to get plastic production up to commercial quantities.

JUSTICE

Coal plants face dirty lawsuit

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire could join New York in legal action against 17 power plants in the Midwest and Southeast if they don't clean up their act. If the lawsuits are filed, it would be the first time a state has sued private, out-of-state companies for causing pollution that travels across state lines. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sent a legal notice to 17 coal-fired plants in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, stating that if they don't agree within two months to clean up their emissions, New York will sue. Mr. Spitzer said the plants have increased their power output without upgrading their pollution- control equipment, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. The power plants deny they have made the kind of substantial improvements that would require the installation of better scrubbers on their smokestacks.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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