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The American way of bioterror - an A-Z of ricin crackpots

Homebrew poison of choice to the hard of thinking

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

So in America there is an odd position, one in which castor plants in the garden and on the stoop are entirely legitimate while the collection and mashing of the seeds of them immediately exposes the typical ricin putterer to a substantial criminal charge. In Bergendorff's case, the ricin crackpot can also bring down family members. It's a crime to know of and not report the production of ricin when the government comes inquiring. It charged Bergendorff's cousin, Thomas Tholen, for not informing authorities what he properly knew of Bergendorff powdering castor in the basement.

A long time ago castor seed agriculture was a noticeable renewable resource in the US. Castor pomace was an organic fertilizer, one used quite a bit until pushed aside by more modern sources of nitrogen from the chemical industry. And in 2008, some have seriously suggested enhancing the cultivation of castor plants for the production of biodiesel.

But the common modern view is one in which castor, outside of intestinal purgative, has no perceived purpose in the United States except as justification for the inspiration of bioterror fear and funding for the development of ricin vaccines nobody thought were necessary prior to 9/11. Paradoxically, poison tinkering Roger Von Bergendorff is the only person in the country who could have benefited from a ricin immunization.

A self-defeating and nihilistic interest exists in the poison, as if every red-blooded, disappointed and frustrated American kook has a defiant right to possess a recipe on their hard disk and a packet of castor seeds nearby, perhaps next to an unregistered handgun equipped with a silencer made out of a vegetable. This ensures a constant trickle of criminal apprehensions and prosecutions, a process the government handles efficiently, depositing ricin crackpots where they belong. Bergendorff, like everyone else before him, is headed for prison for an indefinite period, a just sentence when considering that, unintentionally or not, the ricin crackpot's major contribution is to frighten the locals when the gendarmes and hazmat teams descend on the neighborhood. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.

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