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Articles by Shelley Smithson

Shelley Smithson is a freelance writer in Farmington, N.M. Research for this story was conducted with financial support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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Last January, inspectors with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paid a visit to the University of Illinois, where researchers have been studying the DNA of pigs. The pig project, based in Champaign-Urbana, is one of dozens of experiments being conducted across the country in which scientists are altering the genetic structure of animals in hopes of making them fatter, healthier, and more profitable.

Pigging out.

Photo: USDA.

In the University of Illinois project, cow genes were inserted into sows to increase their milk production, and a synthetic gene was added to make milk digestion easier for the piglets, thereby causing them to grow faster. But instead of the experimental swine being destroyed, as required by the FDA, 386 piglets were sold to livestock brokers, who then sold them to slaughterhouses, who sold them to grocery stores, who sold them to consumers as pork chops, sausage, and bacon.

University officials claim the piglets did not inherit the genetic baggage of their moms, and the government does not believe the incident presented a public-health risk. But the slipup is emblematic of a federal r... Read more

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  • Universities combat climate change

    “Do it in the dark!” That’s the rallying cry at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., where an ambitious campaign is under way to cut greenhouse gases. Sure, climate change activism — conserving energy, using renewable fuels, and constructing eco-friendly buildings — isn’t as sexy as marching against Vietnam or burning bras. But in an increasingly […]

  • Is the U.S. nuclear industry writing its own ticket on security?

    Over the last 15 years, the nuclear power industry has lobbied the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Congress to weaken security requirements at atomic plants, even as the threat of terrorism has grown. But in reality, as Shelley Smithson shows in Part I of this series, nuclear energy security is already poor. In drills conducted by […]

  • A look at the hiring practices at U.S. nuclear power plants

    Could the Sept. 11 hijackers have gotten jobs at nuclear power plants? Under the current rules governing nuclear safety, at least some of them could have easily gone to work as janitors, carpenters, computer programmers, or other plant employees, according to Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer who works for the Union of Concerned Scientists. […]

  • How secure are U.S. nuclear power plants?

    Roughly 40 miles from the rubble of the World Trade Center, U.S. Navy cutters patrol the chilly waters of the Hudson River. Military planes circle overhead. On the ground, members of the National Guard stand ready. The Indian Point nuclear power station, which churns out electricity to nearly 2 million homes around New York City, […]