From Counterpunch


Steve Kurtz is Associate Professor  in the Department of Art at the State University of New York’s  University at Buffalo, and a member of the internationally-acclaimed  Critical Art Ensemble.

 Kurtz’s wife, Hope Kurtz, died  in her sleep of cardiac arrest in the early morning hours of  May 11. Police arrived, became suspicious of Kurtz’s art supplies  and called the FBI.

 Within hours, FBI agents had  “detained” Kurtz as a suspected bioterrorist and cordoned  off the entire block around his house. (Kurtz walked away the  next day on the advice of a lawyer, his “detention”  having proved to be illegal.) Over the next few days, dozens  of agents in hazmat suits, from a number of law enforcement agencies,  sifted through Kurtz’s work, analyzing it on-site and impounding  computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife’s  body for further analysis. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Health Department  condemned his house as a health risk.

Kurtz, a member of the Critical  Art Ensemble, makes art which addresses the politics of biotechnology.  “Free Range Grains,” CAE’s latest project, included  a mobile DNA extraction laboratory for testing food products  for possible transgenic contamination. It was this equipment  which triggered the Kafkaesque chain of events.

FBI field and laboratory tests  have shown that Kurtz’s equipment was not used for any illegal  purpose. In fact, it is not even _possible_ to use this equipment  for the production or weaponization of dangerous germs. Furthermore,  any person in the US may legally obtain and possess such equipment.

“Today, there is no legal  way to stop huge corporations from putting genetically altered  material in our food,” said Defense Fund spokeswoman Carla  Mendes. “Yet owning the equipment required to test for the  presence of ‘Frankenfood’ will get you accused of ‘terrorism.’  You can be illegally detained by shadowy government agents, lose  access to your home, work, and belongings, and find that your  recently deceased spouse’s body has been taken away for ‘analysis.'”

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