GM Scientists Work
On Glow-In-The-Dark
And Other Designer Lawns
By David Wastell in Washington

Scientists seeking the formula for a perfect lawn believe that they are on their way to producing grass that glows in the dark, that is brightly coloured, or that needs to be mowed less often.
Developers of "novelty" grasses say the first such products could be available to gardeners in the United States within three years as a result of leaps in the technology of genetic engineering. Other grasses, designed to make it easier to maintain golf courses, are also being tested. American researchers expect a large market for the newly-developed grasses which, they say, could put bio-technology into millions of gardens.
Scientists at Monsanto, the agricultural company which has pioneered genetically-modified crops, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, have teamed up with Scotts, America's largest maker of lawn and turf products, to work on the new grasses.
They are moving cautiously to avoid provoking a backlash from environmentalists who are worried that pollen from the new grasses would cross-fertilise with other grasses, leading to a whole series of new strains. One possibility is to include in the grass a form of the so-called terminator gene, which would render any seed sterile and thus stop its spread beyond the area in which it was planted.
The first grass likely to be developed for the market is a variation of the kind already used on golf courses because it will survive being clipped short for putting greens. The plan is to produce a modified variety which is resistant to Monsanto's Round-Up weedkiller and can survive longer without water. Both changes would make golf courses easier to maintain.
The development has been hailed as a great step forward by the association representing golf course managers, but has had a less enthusiastic reception from landscape architects, whose own organisation has urged the agriculture department to suspend all field testing.
Scientists are examining other possibilities, inspired by the fact that genes for luminescence have already been introduced experimentally into tobacco and other plants. Dr Peter Day, the director of the Institute of Biomolecular Research at Rutgers, said: "We are concentrating on making grass that is resistant to pests and disease and that does not need to be mowed so often, but other possibilities are emerging."
Among these are brightly coloured grasses, not just green. Dr Day said: "You could spell out a message on you lawn, or perhaps more likely on a sports field, by planting a grass of a different colour." Researchers expect that such new products could catch on quickly in America, where the demand for novelty is greater and where there is less opposition to genetically-modified plants and food.
The prospect of fewer summer weekends preoccupied with the lawnmower could appeal to millions of suburban households, scientists believe. But Dr Day admitted that not all gardeners would welcome slower growing lawns. He said: "It will deprive people of the excuse to get off the washing up."
French Scientists Hopping Mad Over GM Rabbit 10-6-00
PARIS (Reuters) - Like any protective parents, French scientists have refused to give a genetically modified rabbit they created to a Chicago artist who wants to display the animal as a work of art.
Moreover, they deny the artist's assertion that the she-rabbit, named Alba, is green -- although they acknowledge that she does give off verdant hues under certain conditions.
``This rabbit is not green. Under blue light, this white rabbit's eyes may appear slightly green and its fur may present some tinges,'' said French agricultural research institute INRA, which developed Alba.
INRA scientists inserted a jellyfish gene into Alba when she was an embryo. As a result, her cells glow like a jellyfish when they are examined under a microscope in blue light, the institute said.
An INRA spokeswoman explained that the Chicago artist, Eduardo Kac, learned about Alba during a conversation with one of the scientists who helped develop her.
But the spokeswoman said there was no question of allowing Kac to exhibit Alba as a kind of performance-art pet.
``He wanted to put her in a cage but that's not possible. An animal of this type is a lab animal. You can't parade her around like that,'' the spokeswoman said.
``INRA never gave that idea the green light,'' she added.

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