Today's news

March 5, 2004


Call for full retraction of study linking MMR to autism
MPs are to demand that the editor of The Lancet explain why he issued only a "partial" retraction of the paper that implied a link between MMR and autism. Ian Gibson, chairman of the science and technology select committee, said that the journal’s decision to revoke the interpretation of the 1998 paper "did it no credit". On Wednesday the journal released a statement, signed by ten of the 13 authors of the original paper, announcing a "retraction of interpretation".
( Times )

Cabinet sanctions planting of GM maize
Gentically modified crops are expected to be grown commercially in Britain as early as next spring after the Cabinet yesterday approved the planting of genetically-modified maize in Britain after Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, made a case for giving the go-ahead for a strain of GM maize to be grown under strict controls.
( Independent )

Comment: Top-off fees
When the Storm model agency goes talent-scouting in the universities it sends out a powerful message to women: you may be clever, but are your legs long enough? Ros Coward considers whether cat-walking, pole-dancing Cambridge undergraduates are the new (pretty) face of feminism?
( Guardian )

Teeth clue to earliest human ancestors
Six fossil teeth found in Ethiopia have been dated at six million years old and belonged to the earliest known human ancestors, scientists say. Their owners come from the first species on the human branch of the family tree after the evolutionary split between lines leading to modern chimpanzees and people. The discovery is announced today in Science by Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a member of a team working in the Middle Awash valley of the Afar Region of Ethiopia.
( Daily Telegraph, Financial Times )

Memory cells identified
Scientists at the Wake Forest University Baptists Medical Centre, North Carolina, US, have identified some of the cells they believe help primates categorise and remember large quantities of information. Their study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
( Financial Times )

Scourge of Dracula seeks pesticide status
Scientists have created an agricultural pesticide made from garlic juice concentrate which kills the worms that destroy potato and cabbage crops. Last September, biologists from the University of Newcastle revealed that garlic juice could kill garden slugs and snails. Now, the same principle is being applied to the tiny worms, called potato cyst nematodes, that destroy £70 million of Britain's 37,000 hectares of potato crop annually.
( Independent )

Blooming miracle leaves BBC red-faced
John Warren, a lecturer in agricultural ecology at the University of Wales’s Institute of Rural Affairs, has written to the BBC urging them to check their facts. He was prompted to write after Monday night's episode of The Archers when a character found a flower in his meadow that could not possibly survive the winter, and mentioned a grass that would turn the ecology of the area upside down.
( Times )

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