WASHINGTON--The US Congress has agreed to increase funding for the controversial new Plant Genome Initiative by $40 million in fiscal 1998, which began October 1. The new funds are in addition to the $20 million already budgeted for plant genome research, and account for a significant portion of the overall $114 million increase in the National Science Foundation's budget for next year.
Unusually, the initiative wasn't proposed by the National Science Foundation, but by proagriculture legislators. Thus it became controversial insofar as some scientists questioned the allocation of resources and whether the initiative was designed more to meet scientific or political objectives. Plant geneticists contacted by BioInform generally supported the concept of a higher profile for their discipline, but were divided as to whether the initiative's primary focus on corn was the best choice. In addition to corn the initiative will also involve Arabidopsis thalianas and rice.