Police: Protesters left traces of poison behind

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Seven glass jars that may have been placed by opponents of an animal genetics meeting contained enough cyanide to sicken people, but not enough to kill, the FBI said Tuesday.

Special Agent Paul McCabe said two of three batches of chemicals in the jars had been tested, and a third round was pending.

''At the levels (of cyanide) present, it is not a serious health concern,'' McCabe said. Cyanide can be poisonous and explosive at higher concentrations.

The jars were found in three sites in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, a day when police clashed violently with people demonstrating against the International Society for Animal Genetics. Seventy-one people were arrested, though no major injuries were reported.

The scene outside the downtown hotel hosting the convention was quiet the day after Monday's clashes. The six-day conference ends Wednesday.

Investigators did not tie the jars directly to protesters, but said there was evidence linking them. At a McDonald's Restaurant where the contents of one jar were poured on the floor, a message was left referring to the geneticists' conference, McCabe said.

Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton told WMNN radio there are two kinds of protesters in town: ''Those who are protesting legitimately and others who may be quite willing to put the lives of other people at risk,'' she said.

A voice mailbox for GrainRAGE, a group opposed to biotechnology that was organizing some of the protesters, was full Tuesday and unable to accept a phone message.

About 650 scientists attended the meeting to exchange research and information in workshops and seminars. ISAG is one of the world's most prominent groups that shares information on the gene mapping of livestock and pets, used to enhance their health and resistance to disease.

Activists say genetic engineering threatens biodiversity, constitutes ''playing God'' and could pollute delicate ecosystems or create a society in which corporations and the government control what kinds of animals and humans are born.


On the Net:

International Society of Animal Geneticists: http://www.cvm.umn.edu/isag2000


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