Biotech Demonstrators Denounce Police Behavior (9/6/2004)

"This is a corporate meeting, it's not a scientific meeting."

see item 2 for link to video news report on yesterday's demonstrations

1.Biotech Demonstrators Denounce Police Behavior
In all, 161 people were arrested.
CBS5.com Staff

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez joined biotech demonstrators Wednesday to denounce their treatment at the hands of police.

The clashes started Tuesday morning near the biotech conference at Moscone Center, and continued through the evening hours. In all 161 people were arrested. Protestors maintain they were peaceful.

Wednesday, demonstrators said they'd plant trees instead of confronting police and conference attendees.

The protestors oppose genetically modified food. Conference organizers say the industry performs important medical research.

2.Dozens Arrested in Biotech Protests
CBS5.com Staff
[you can watch a good news video here, including Brian Tokar]

Police in riot gear faced off with hundreds of protestors threatening to shut down the biotech conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center Tuesday.

Traffic gridlock prevailed in the South of Market area Tuesday morning, when about 500 protestors demonstrated outside the convention. Police had blocked off streets in the area in preparation, but at times they had to break through blockades of protestors in order to let conference-goers into the Moscone Center.

About two dozen people were arrested Tuesday morning. Many of those arrested had linked themselves together with plastic arm sleeves. After the sleeves were sawed off, the demonstrators were charged with blocking traffic and failure to obey an officer. Two others were arrested after crawling under a bus that was bringing people to the convention.

Most of the protests involved the genetic modification of food.

"We're feeding untested technology to our children," said protest organizer Becky Tarbotton. "That is happening simply for profit."

Brian Tokar, from a group called Reclaim the Commons, said, "Genetically engineered food is hazardous to our health."

But the spokesperson for the biotech conference says genetically modified food saves lives.

"Genetically modified crops have been modified to have a natural pest-resistance to them," said Dan Eramian.

Eramian said that biotechnology is also behind insect-resistant corn, and "golden rice," which can cure blindness in undernourished people.

But out of more than 1000 companies and institutions at the conference, less than 5% have anything to do with genetically modified foods. Instead, many are pharmaceutical or research firms, which create drugs for people like Amelia Davis who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis six years ago.

"I'm living proof that these drugs that they are researching and developing are beneficial," said Davis.

But Tokar said, "I'd rather see the scientists and the community making decisions about how to cure disease, instead of corporations making decisions. This is a corporate meeting, it's not a scientific meeting."

Most of the streets around Moscone Center were still blocked off at noon, and a few hundred protestors were still on the scene. They said they were planning another large demonstration for the evening hours. Police said they would allow the protests as long as no laws were being broken.

The biotech conference wraps up Wednesday.

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