By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Saboteurs damaged two fields of genetically modified sugar beets in southern Oregon earlier June, according to the FBI.
The FBI considers the incidents, which occurred during the nights of June 8 and June 11 in Jackson County, to be crimes of "economic sabotage" that violate federal law.
About 1,000 sugar beet plants were destroyed during the first incident and another 5,500 were destroyed during the second, both in fields leased by the biotech developer Syngenta.
Beth Anne Steele, a spokesperson for the FBI, said the agency wasn't disclosing how the plants were destroyed.
"We're not revealing how it happened because we don't want to encourage copy cats," she said.
Steele said the FBI was notified of the incidents by Syngenta and isn't familiar with similar sabotage of biotech crops in Oregon, but is inquiring whether such damage has occurred elsewhere in the U.S.
The agency isn't disclosing whether it has any suspects for the crimes, she said. "It seems likely they would be connected but we will see how the investigation goes."
The FBI is seeking the public's assistance in the investigation, asking people to report whether they noticed unusual behavior among friends or coworkers on the nights in question, Steele said.
To submit tips to the FBI, call 541-773-2942 or 503-224-4181. The industry group Oregonians for Food and Shelter has offered reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to criminal convictions in the case.
Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said she was "shocked and disappointed" by the destruction and believes they are the first such incidents of sabotage against crops in the state.
"Regardless of how one feels about biotechnology, there is no justification for committing these crimes and it's not the kind of behavior we expect to see in Oregon agriculture," she said in a statement.