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The Genetics Debate
From the MPR Newsroom
July 2000

Police arrest protesters in downtown Minneapolis Monday afternoon. (MPR Photo/Eric Ryan)
See MPR photo slideshow.

The Issues

Seeding the Future
The debate over biotechnology seems to get louder with each passing month. Critics of bioengineered crops say they're a threat to consumers and the environment. Most scientists dismiss fears about the health risks of genetically-altered crops. But there is no scientific consensus when it comes to their environmental impact. MPR's series, Seeding the Future, looks at the debate surrounding genetically modified organisms.

The Geneticists' Side
Larry Schook, director of the Food, Animal, and Biotechnology Center at the University of Minnesota and an organizer of the animal genetics conference joins Mike Mulcahy on MPR's Midday,to talk about what animal genetics is, whether society is ready for the technology involved in animal genetics, and what they'll be talking about at the conference. (7/21/2000)

The Opponents' Side
Melanie Sommer talks with Freeman Wicklund, executive director of Compassionate Action for Animals, an animal-rights activist.(July 21, 2000)

The Next Frontier
What's next on the genetic front? Transgenic livestock. Already, scientists are developing goats, sheep and dairy cows with transplanted genes for use in laboratories. Those animals are producing human pharmaceuticals in their milk, although the products have not yet been approved for commercial use.
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On the Web

International Conference on Animal Genetics


Bioengineering Action Network of North America

This week, 500 scientists, around 200 protesters, and nearly 700 police converge on downtown Minneapolis for the International Society of Animal Genetics conference. Protesters have promised to do whatever it takes to disrupt the conference, and police intend to stop them. Monday afternoon, around 65 protesters were arrested after a skirmish with the police and a chase around the city. Why does the conference stir such passion and protest? Learn more about the issues, hear from the scientists and protesters, and find the latest news here.

The Latest from MPR News

Conference not about transgenic animals, scientists say
Scientists from 48 countries are comparing research in the rapidly advancing field of animal genomics, or mapping the genetic makeup of animals. Opponents of biotechnology fear such knowledge will be used to create animals with genes from other species, but animal geneticists say that's not the focus of the conference. (7/25/2000, 6 p.m.)

Police and protesters skirmish in Minneapolis
More than 80 protesters were arrested in Minneapolis July 24 at the meeting of the International Society of Animal Genetics. Some organizers of the protest had vowed to shut down the conference, but the hotel was barricaded with chain link fences patrolled by offices from Minneapolis police, Hennepin county sheriff's department, and the state patrol. At least 150 officers were assigned to the conference, with a total of 700 standing by. Protesters were arrested as they tried to get through police lines to reach an area close to the hotel where the animal geneticists were meeting. (7/24/2000, 6 p.m.)

Weekend brings a march but no clashes
Between 150 and 200 protesters marched around downtown Minneapolis late Sunday evening to voice their opposition to the International Animal Genetics Conference which started over the weekend. The march was noisy and protracted, and while there was a heavy police presence, there were no arrests. The police say there were fewer protesters than they had expected, but the demonstrators say they will regroup later today, and do it all again. (7/24/2000, 9 a.m.)

Police won't violate rights, chief says
As Minneapolis police prepare for possible protests surrounding an animal genetics conference MPR's Melanie Sommer talks with Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union about how to balance protester's rights with the need to ensure public safety. (7/20/2000)

Learning From Seattle
The Minneapolis Police Department's preparations for the International Society of Animal Genetics Conference are designed, according to the authorities, to prevent a repeat of the WTO protests in Seattle. Police groups around the country have been adopting more proactive tactics since the Seattle demonstrations last November. (7/19/2000)

Police won't violate rights, chief says
Minneapolis Police are trying to assure the public that officers won't stop, question or search people in the area of the controversial animal genetics conference without reasonable suspicion of a crime. (7/19/2000)