Stop Environmental Terrorism

January 26, 2000
Detroit News

An ultra-radical environmental group, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has claimed responsibility for the New YearŐs Eve fire at Michigan State UniversityŐs historic Agriculture Hall. The group was reportedly trying to sabotage research on genetically modified foods.

All sensible environmentalists ought to join Lana Pollock, former state senator and current president of the Michigan Environmental Council, in denouncing this act.

The MSU fire was not the first act of terrorism by this group: Two years ago, the ELF claimed responsibility for burning down a mountaintop ski resort in Vail, Colo., causing more than $12 million in property damages - all because the resort was supposedly intruding on lynx habitat. Previously, the Animal Liberation Front, the ELFŐs sister group, released 10,000 mink from an Oregon mink farm and torched a slaughterhouse. In 1992, in another act of arson at MSU, it burned 30 years of research files in Anthony Hall.

This recent act at MSU was intended to target an agriculture professor working on genetically engineered crop pesticides for Monsanto Co. But why genetically modified foods have become a target in recent years is puzzling. Bioengineered foods, after all, could help contain environmental degradation by, for example, cutting down on pesticide and fertilizer use by farmers, the largest remaining cause of water pollution in this country. And they could boost crop yield and help save untold acres of pristine areas in developing countries from deforestation, which remains a pressing problem after decades of conservation efforts.

It would be unfair, of course, to hold an entire movement responsible for the acts of a lunatic fringe group. Peter Huber, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, makes a useful distinction between environmentalists who seek to protect nature, but realize that humans must interact with it, and ultra-radicals who want to save nature from humans - as if humans arenŐt part of nature as well.

This helps explain the ultra-radical environmentalistsŐ deep-seated antipathy toward technological advances - even those like genetically engineered foods that may well preserve nature. And it explains how the radicals can destroy millions of dollars of property, threaten peopleŐs livelihood - if not their lives - and still attempt to somehow claim the moral high ground.

Protecting the environment is a wise and useful policy until it is carried to violent extremes.

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