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Where have all the BIO protesters gone?

Conference that once drew thousands in opposition may only see handful of protesters this week.

An international biotechnology conference that once drew thousands of passionate protesters to Boston 12 years ago may only see a handful of chanters during a return visit to the Hub this week.

The four day BIO International Convention, a gathering of biotechnology leaders from around the world, kicks off today at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston. More than 16,000 people are expected to attend and contribute nearly $27 million to the local economy.

But, as they have in years past, those biotechnology industry leaders will be welcomed by a group of protesters who are planning a rally this morning for the start of the conference.

Groups who have expressed their support and plan to participate in the protest include Occupy Monsanto, the Northeast Organic Farming Association and Occupy Boston.

Rica Madrid, a member of Occupy Monsanto, said last week that she expected about 50 people to show up to the protest. As of yesterday afternoon, about 60 people were signed up on the group's Facebook page to attend today.

"We really do hope it's by the thousands, but to be realistic, I think a lot of people really do care, but conflicts are people's families. And they don't have a lot of time to come out to a demonstration on a Monday morning," Madrid said.

She also said a problem to attracting people to the protest is the lack of knowledge about the group's cause - genetically modified organisms in food.

The group hopes to force companies to label food that includes genetically engineered ingredients.

A Boston police spokesman said in an e-mail that police are aware the convention "may draw some opposition groups" and that the department has assigned additional resources.

Conference organizers said protesters will use a "First Amendment designated area" and that the safety and well-being of convention attendees and Hub citizens is top priority.

 
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