A molecular biologist could face a prison sentence for criticizing a report on transgenic gene spread. Ernesto Bustamante Donayre, vice president of the Peruvian College of Biologists, a professional organization, stands accused of defamation, a criminal offense, which in Peru can carry a prison term or fine. What triggered the suit was his public criticism of a report prepared by Antonietta Ornella Gutiérrez Rosati, a biologist at the La Molina National Agricultural University in Lima, identifying a P34S promoter and NK603 and BT11 transgenes in 14 of 42 maize samples from the Barranca region. Continue reading
Geophysicists studying the 12 January earthquake in Haiti met yesterday with United Nations representatives and Haitian president René Garcia Préval to discuss what the latest measurements of the Earth’s shape can tell policymakers about future earthquakes. Several such ongoing geodesy studies suggest that the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which has killed over 170,000 people so far, caused a 30- to 50-kilometre stretch of the fault southwest of Port-au-Prince to slip — possibly adding tension along an unreleased stretch of the same fault that passes even closer to Haiti’s capital.
A fully equipped laboratory for studying pathogen-resistant transgenic plants will close its doors by the year’s end. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) Biosafety Outstation in Ca’Tron di Roncade, Treviso, Italy, was set up to study potential risks concerning genetically modified crops and plant pathogens of importance to the developing world. The outstation’s facilities, part of the ICGEB, were refurbished with financing from Treviso-based Cassamarca Foundation, supported by banking group Unicredit. But the bank’s financial woes have prevented the foundation from renewing the €4-million ($5.7 million), 5-year contract, says Mark Tepfer, leader of the outstation’s Plant Virology group. Continue reading
A wood-burning stove that uses sound to generate electricity and refrigeration could one day make waves in developing countries. That’s the hope of an international team headed by engineer Paul Riley of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. This month, the U.K. government and the U.S.’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico awarded the team almost $4 million to develop a Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration, and Electricity (SCORE). The appliance would rely on external combustion, such as a wood fire, to heat one end of a tube of compressed gas, inducing sound waves that can be harnessed to generate enough electricity to power a light bulb and a small refrigeration unit.
The principle isn’t new, but the technology has been too expensive for general use, says thermoacoustician Steven Garrett of Pennsylvania State University in State College. The SCORE team hopes to make it cost-effective with cheaper materials: Compressed air could replace high-pressure helium, for example. “If anybody can pull this off, it’s got to be these guys,” says Garrett. The device may not cut down on wood consumption, but tests suggest that it will make use of up to 30% of a wood fire’s energy, much more than a typical stove’s 7% efficiency.