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Jewish World Review May 25, 2001 / 3 Sivan, 5761

Michelle Malkin

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Consumer Reports

Fire in the "Frankenforest" -- A JIHAD against some of America's best and brightest researchers continues unabated. Arsonists struck again in the Pacific Northwest this week, gutting a University of Washington horticultural lab in Seattle and burning down property at a poplar tree nursery in Clatskanie, Oregon. The fires caused an estimated $3 million in damage.

Will Bush-Cheney fare any better than Clinton-Gore did in catching the masked cowards who commit these violent acts in the name of the environment? What will Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI do to protect the victims of this domestic terrorism? And where are the "mainstream" environmental groups, which should be openly and aggressively condemning the senseless destruction of private property and intellectual capital?

The fires are a testament to the scientific illiteracy and moral bankruptcy of these so-called "eco-terrorists." They target biotechnology and all things "unnatural," even if it means trashing invaluable research to restore and protect the environment. They are "terrorists against science," says Dr. Steve Strauss, a plant geneticist at Oregon State University and a victim of past research vandalism. Attacking genetic experiments is "just another way of attacking capitalism and technology," notes Hudson Institute fellow Michael Fumento, who has tracked eco-terrorism and is writing a book on the biotech revolution.

The green avengers pose as the most principled protectors of the Earth, but creep around in the dark torching plants, crushing crops, chopping up trees, and refusing to be held accountable for their actions. Among the items destroyed at the University of Washington this week by the zealous crusaders against "Frankenforests:"

  • 100 showy stickseed plants, a rare and endangered species that one researcher was trying to restore through tissue culture and planning to reintroduce to the wild;

  • more than 30 years of research files and slides documenting the regrowth of vegetation around Mount St. Helens since it erupted two decades ago;

  • work on adding a human gene to plants that could help break down cancer-causing toxins in soil;

  • and research on wetlands rehabilitation and urban forestry.

Nice going, nitwits.

The suspected perpetrators belong to a shadowy group of environmental anarchists called the Earth Liberation Front. One federal agent says time-delayed incendiary devices - the kind ELF teaches members how to build on its website -- were used in both the Seattle and Oregon incidents. Since the mid-1990s, members of the ELF and its militant ally, the Animal Liberation Front, have claimed responsibility for a long string of arsons and vandalism, from crop experiments and test fields at university research centers in the mid-West, to fur farms in the Pacific Northwest, meat vendors in the San Francisco Bay area, and department stores on the East Coast. ELF takes credit for arsons at a ski resort in Vail, Co., and inspired four teens to torch housing developments in Long Island.

The Oregon nursery was apparently targeted for its connection to UW plant geneticist Toby Bradshaw, in whose office the Seattle fire began. Bradshaw studies poplars and their ability to produce wood and fiber and dramatically higher rates than other trees. He uses traditional cross-breeding methods to analyze the genes of hybrid trees for helpful traits like disease resistance. Bradshaw himself has never actually inserted genes into trees, but anti-biotech terrorists have destroyed his experiments, anyway, and targeted others with connections to him - such as the Oregon nursery, which collaborated with Bradshaw in the past.

Biotech researchers are making breakthroughs every day to feed more people faster with sturdier crops and healthier food, produce more wood more cleanly and efficiently, and improve and save lives in unimaginable ways. "I will not be intimidated by people who can't make a reasoned argument in the light of day," Bradshaw told the press as he sifted through the ashes of his life's work.

It's no wonder the eco-thugs do their evil deeds at night. Sunlight reveals who the real monsters and heroes are.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate