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Biodevastation 2000 addresses human genetic technologies

Genetic Crossroads
April 16th, 2000

As anticipated by its organizers, Biodevastation 2000 turned out to

be the largest gathering to date in the US of activists opposed to
genetically modified foods. Held in Boston March 24-26 to coincide
with the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization
(BIO), Biodev 2000 drew about a thousand registrants for dozens of
workshops and panels. About 4000 participated in a March 26 rally
near the BIO convention site.

The Biodev 2000 conference included several sessions on the threats
posed by human genetic manipulation. Speakers on the "Human Genetics"
panel were Alix Fano (Campaign for Responsible Transplantation,
<http://www.crt-online.org>), Ruth Hubbard (Harvard University and Council
for Responsible Genetics, <http://www.gene-watch.org>), Gregor Wolbring
(University of Calgary and disability rights activist), and Marcy
Darnovsky, co-editor of this newsletter.

Media interest in human genetic issues was piqued by BIO spokes-
people's repeated use of promises of medical advances to defend
biotechnology in general. Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
executive director Janice Bourque, for example, claimed in a
front-page Boston Globe article that "biotechnology works today"
for "cures for patients who suffer from diseases" (Peter J. Howe,
"Biotech leaders, foes come to town," March 26, 2000, page A1).

While much of the local press coverage downplayed substantive
issues to focus on what city and police officials claimed was a
potential for a "Seattle repeat," there were partial exceptions.
A Boston Globe sidebar titled "Biotech debate: Promise and
controversy" included the questions "Will only the rich get
access to promising, expensive therapies?" and "Will [the Human
Genome Project] lead to pressure to create `designer babies' in
laboratories through genetic manipulation or abortions of
`imperfect' fetuses?" (Peter Howe, March 26, 2000, page A18).

Biodev 2000 was organized by Northeast Resistance Against Genetic
Engineering (NERAGE) and co-sponsored by almost 30 regional and
national organizations. In a summary statement after the event,
organizers wrote, "We have shown the world that we will not allow
corporations and state governments to turn the world into a
laboratory for the development of a brave new world of capitalist
control. We have made our voices heard: humanity and nature are
not for sale, not for profit, and not for capital-driven
experimentation."

For more information, see <http://boston.indy-media.org>.


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