HOUGHTON (AP) Michigan Tech University officials are offering a $2,000 reward for the people who put two unexploded bombs outside campus buildings, while researchers wonder about the motive.
“It”s a big confusion at this time why someone would resort to criminal activity to intimidate us or stop (research) work,” Glenn Mroz, dean of the School of Forestry and Wood Products, told The Daily Mining Gazette for a story yesterday.
Campus police found the bombs Monday near the U.J. Noblet Forestry Building and the U.S. Forest Service Engineering Laboratory. Genetic engineering research for the forest products industry is conducted at the labs.
A state police bomb squad defused and removed the bombs and was examining them. The FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, state police, campus police and Hancock police are investigating.
The bombs consisted of three 5-gallon buckets filled with an unknown liquid, wired to two ignition devices.
University spokesman Bill Curnow said he was unaware of any threats toward the school. In April, the Earth Liberation Front sent out a nationwide Earth Day e-mail warning against genetic engineering research, he said.
The radical environmental group has claimed responsibility on its Web site for several recent attacks on genetic engineering and other projects, but makes no reference to Michigan Tech.
The ELF told The Associated Press in an e-mail message yesterday that no one was available for comment.
The Earth Liberation Front and the related Animal Liberation Front have claimed responsibility for at least five acts of sabotage over the past two months.
The attacks include setting fire to a McDonald”s restaurant in Tucson, Ariz. burning a maintenance building at a primate research facility in New Mexico twice releasing minks from an Iowa fur farm and firebombing a federal corral for wild horses in Nevada.
Since 1987, they have claimed responsibility for dozens of acts of sabotage against companies and agencies they say are harming animals and the environment including fur farms, research facilities, fast-food restaurants and logging operations.
“I am very concerned,” said Michigan Tech researcher Mijeong Jeong. “The first thing I thought of was my work.”
David Barbarash, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, said the Tech bombs were similar to devices the ELF describes in brochures and websites as useful for terrorist activities. But he said he didn”t know whether the ELF was responsible for the Michigan Tech bombs.
“Typically people take responsibility,” Barbarash said. “But we don”t know who they are or if they feel safe enough to take responsibility.”
The groups oppose genetic engineering because it “messes with the basic fundamentals of life,” Barbarash said. “They can say there is no damage done, but we don”t know the long-term effects.”
Michigan Tech scientists say their experiments with altered tree and plant genes in the Noblet building are safe and benefit the environment.
“If you can grow more trees on fewer acres, that means there is more land that is available for wilderness and recreation,” Mroz said.
Just before the Earth Day threat, Tech received a $2 million grant to experiment with aspen tree genetics. In an effort similar to the human genome project, Mroz said scientists are attempting to map the genetics of the common tree.
Tech researchers hope to use that knowledge to find more efficient ways of growing trees for paper mills. They believe if a substance called lignin can be engineered out of trees, the cost and environmental impact of making paper will be reduced. Mills presently use chemicals to remove lignin.