Defenders may have the last laugh on...


June 10, 1991

TOBACCO'S EMBATTLED defenders may have the last laugh on thosewho would like the ban it.

In an experimental project that may in a few years produce an anti-AIDS drug, genetically engineered tobacco plants are hard at work in a field in Raleigh, N.C., synthesizing chemicals that are hard to produce in industrial plants.

Tobacco, according to plant researchers, is the world's "white mouse," long studied by plant breeders and botanists. nTC Researchers at North Carolina State University have inserted genes to cause the tobacco plants to produce alpha trichosanthin, or "compound Q," a potential AIDS drug; human blood proteins, and the alpha amylase enzyme, used in the food industry to convert starch to glucose.

Researchers say there is no limit to the products that can be produced in tobacco, but the best candidates are complex drugs that can't be made cheaply in chemical factories.

Should scientists succeed in the current experiments, one of America's most popular pariahs will have rehabilitated itself in a spectacular way.

* * *

IT IS official. The White House press office contains a person named Amend. Deb Amend.

Now all it needs to be ready for every eventuality is a Ms. Retract and Mr. Clarify.

* * *

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY is in a panic to find a storage facility for low-level radioactive waste generated by the molecular biology department. Right now, the hot stuff goes to a disposal site in the state of Washington, but under federal law, that must end and New Jersey must have its own by 1993. New Jersey won't.

So Princeton needs an interim site and is considering the map room in the basement of the geology library. The library assistants may strike. Meanwhile, the geology department is said to be investigating the possibility of arranging a small earthquake across the street, under molecular biology.

* * *

LISTEN UP boys and girls, this is a new world order, and you are not to address your superiors by their first names, for "familiarity does indeed breed contempt," says Letitia Baldridge, author of "Letitia Baldridge's Complete Guide to Executive Manners." Dr. Abraham Zalenik, professor of leadership at the Harvard Business School, says the wheeling and dealing of the 1980s bred informality in the corporate world. But now, "employees are dying for manners, this is the antithesis of the 1980s. The recession and the Persian Gulf war have helped us think about these human values," says Letitia (oh my!), I mean Baldridge (pardon me!), I mean Ms. Baldridge.

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