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Monster Protest Against Frankenscience

New Scientist, 6 November 1999, p.12

ACTIVISTS decked out as genetically engineered monsters took to the streets of New York and Washington DC on Halloween to protest against what they call “Frankenscience.”

A four-metre-tall puppet of a mad scientist (right) stalked the streets of New York’s Greenwich Village during the famous night-time Halloween Parade. The grimacing giant, created by the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation, wore a dollar-sign tie clip and clutched a model of a pig-human hybrid. A dozen “hybrid attendants” wearing pig snouts danced around with signs warning that xenotransplantation could transfer animal viruses to humans, unleashing AIDS-like epidemics.

Alix Fano, director of the campaign, says her usual work as a policy analyst left her longing for a more dynamic way to communicate her concerns about animal-to-human transplants. Halloween costumes seemed appropriate because “it’s a very ghoulish technology, in our opinion,” she says. Her group handed out thousands of fliers to onlookers, and millions more watched the parade on national television.

Other activists were similarly inspired. In Washington, DC, Friends of the Earth marched to a Safeway grocery store wearing Frankenstein masks and a large costume made for the occasion.

“We have this creature we made that we call the Gene Beast,” says Mark Whiteis-Helm, a member of the group. “He has a strawberry as a head with a fish coming through it” The monster symbolises the genetically modified strawberries that contain a gene for an antifreeze protein taken from the Arctic flounder.

Nell Boyce, Washington, DC

www.newscientist.com