Biotechnology: The Renegade Researcher

The Renegade Researcher

Plant Pathologist Gary Strobel knew that he needed permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to inject genetically altered bacteria into 14 trees in the hope of protecting them from Dutch elm disease. But the approval process can take months, and the Montana State University professor wanted to get on with his experiment. So in June he made the injections anyway.

The action, which Strobel discussed with Montana State University's biosafety committee last week, incensed Jeremy Rifkin, the activist who has led a crusade against releasing genetically altered bacteria into the environment. Rifkin, who contends that man-made bacteria might proliferate out of...