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#8 - U.S. Firm Runs Gene Experiments Without Regulation In Argentina, 18-Jan-1987

The Wistar Institute of Philadelphia, the nation's oldest biomedical
research institution, says it ran experiments in biotechnology in
Argentina in the summer of 1986 without the knowledge or approval of
the U.S. or Argentine governments. The Institute said it was able to
perform field testing of genetically engineered vaccines for animals
without informing either government because Argentina has no rules
governing the biotechnology industry and U.S. rules do not apply. The
Institute worked in conjunction with the Pan American Health
Organization. In the July 1986 test, 20 cows were inoculated with a
gene-altered viral vaccine against rabies at an agricultural station in
Azul, Argentina. In early September the Argentine government heard
about the test from a Wistar scientist and barred any further
experimentation, calling the experiment a "violation of ethical
principles." A commission, named to study the incident, issued 3
reports criticizing test procedures for exposing [unknowing] farm
workers and allowing the cows' milk to be consumed by humans. U.S.
regulatory officials say the incident raises questions about the
adequacy of the Reagan Administration's program to regulate the
products of biotechnology research.

--Peter Montague

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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION SAYS BUDGET CUTS ENDANGER ITS RESEARCH
INTO KEY SAFETY ISSUE

A report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) executive
director said that the agency may not be able to finish a key nuclear
safety study because of cuts in its research budget. The agency's total
budget during 1986 was $401 million, with about one-fourth of it for
research. The cuts total $81.6 million--$30.6 million in the current
fiscal year and $51 million over the previous three fiscal years.

The NRC report says that a reassessment of the risk of serious
accidents may not be completed satisfactorily and the commission will
have only a limited ability to predict the outcome of equipment
malfunctions at plants of the same design as Three Mile Island, (TMI)
in Pennsylvania and to calculate the response of other reactors to
breaks in the cooling water lines.

The report said that "Reductions in the safety research budget are
expected to have intermediate and long-term implications that will be
detrimental to public health and safety," and added that the budget
cuts may end up costing the public more if safety problems lead to
extended plant shutdowns.

--Peter Montague

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NEW JERSEY CHEMICAL FIRM SPILLS PESTICIDES INTO SWISS RHINE RIVER

On Nov. 11, 1986 authorities from the Water Safety Administration in
Basel, Switzerland, said a second accidental leak of toxic chemicals
had spilled into the Rhine River the day before the well-publicized
Sandoz accident. The authorities said Ciba-Geigy, which operates a
large plant in Toms River, NJ, had sent 88 gallons of the weedkiller
Atrazin into the Rhine river from a treatment plant on Oct. 31, a day
before a fire at the Sandoz plant leaked 30 tons of toxins. A spokesman
for Ciba-Geigy said the leak happened when staff accidently released
chemicals into the river before they had been treated. According to the
spokesman, Atrazin is not a powerful poison and the concentration was
low--one-fifth of the concentration at which fish would have been
killed.

Four countries took defensive action since in November, 1986, when a
fire at a chemical company in Basel, Switzerland, spilled a huge
discharge of toxic chemicals, including 8 tons of mercury, into the
Rhine River; a government environmental agency at Basel said it was 10
to 30 tons of chemicals.

Spokesmen in France, West Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland,
through which the Rhine flows, shut down all plants processing Rhine
water for drinking, banned fishing in the river and closed sluices and
locks to stop polluted water from contaminating estuaries, streams and
underground water courses.

According to the Basel environmental agency, water used to put out a
fire at a riverside storage building at the Sandoz chemical company
carried 10 to 30 tons of toxic substances into the river. At least 34
different chemicals were washed into the Rhine, some of which may have
fused into new compounds as a result of the high temperatures created
by the fire. The chemicals include dyes, insecticides and mercury.

--Peter Montague

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RACHEL DATABASE WILL INCLUDE CASE STUDIES OF INCINERATORS, COMPOSTING
PLANTS ACROSS U.S.

The Institute for Local Self Reliance in Washington, DC has completed
case studies of 24 large and small incinerators and composting plants
across the U.S.; their report will be loaded into the Rachel Database
during March, 1987.

The case studies discuss the operating experience, capital costs,
operating and maintenance costs, technology installed, markets for
recovered products, and revenues, of 24 waste processing plants.

--Peter Montague

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Descriptor terms: studies; biotechnology; industry; argentina;
government; vaccines; pan american health organization; testing;
regulations; ronald reagan; water; water pollution; drinking water;
fishing; water safety administration; switzerland; chemicals; rhine
river, germany; poisons; leaks; sandoz; ciba-geigy; atrazine;
pesticides; mercury; france; west germany; netherlands; switzerland;
spills; nuclear regulatory commission; tmi; studies; nuclear power;
risk assessment; public health; accidents; budget; financing; funding;