BOZEMAN, MONT.—The deliberate violation by a Montana State University scientist of EPA regulations on the release of genetically engineered organisms has evoked sharply different reactions from scientists and top administrators on campus. While colleagues criticize him in harsh terms, university officials say they welcome the increased attention to the impact of federal regulations on science.

At issue is plant pathology professor Gary Strobel’s June release into the wild of a genetically altered strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. Strobel admits he did not wait for EPA approval to release the bacteria into a group of elm trees and that he willfully violated the federal regulations.

MSU President William Tietz, speaking before the university had completed its review of the case, said he is not upset about the notoriety Strobel has brought to the university. “We have a major controversy and a major set of circum stances coming together at...

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