Biotech Event Draws Scientists, Protesters

BOSTON--More than 10,000 scientists, educators and businesspeople gathered last week for the largest biotechnology conference ever, while thousands of counter-demonstrators protested outside the Hynes Convention Center.

The BIO 2000 conference, sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), included panels on scientific and economic issues, corporate exhibits and speeches by actor Christopher Reeve and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56.

The conference ran from Sunday, March 26 through Thursday, March 30.

Participants in the conference said they gained valuable contacts and exposure.

"This is our first conference. We're trying to start moving ahead," said Martin Montoya, vice president of marketing at Organize-It, a software company with a booth at the conference.

But outside the hall, thousands of protesters opposed to the risks of biotechnology shouted threatening slogans during a rally on Sunday.

Protesters, who called their event "Biodevastation 2000," dressed as mutant vegetables, cloned monsters and monarch butterflies to demand a variety of restrictions on biotechnology, including an end to genetically modified organisms, ownership and patents over life forms and corporate control over individual consumption.

Estimates of the number of demonstrators ranged from 2,500 to 5,000.