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Farrell backs exhibition on genetics at Centre for Life

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Terry Farrell, architect of the newly opened Centre for Life in Newcastle, last week defended its exhibition on genetics after a group of anti-genetic modification protesters targeted the centre's opening celebrations.

Members of protest group Reclaim Life attacked the centre's 'Life Interactive World' exhibition for failing to contain enough coverage of the dangers of genetics and arrived at its opening day celebrations bearing banners screaming 'Centre for Lies' and 'Castle Frankenstein'. Some of the protesters were dressed in Nazi uniform in an attempt to lampoon the control the main genetics companies are developing over food and medicine.

But Farrell told the AJthat he fully backs the public exhibition, which is supported by Newcastle University and aims to explain DNA and the way genetics shapes our lives. He insisted it does not set out to make judgements on the value of genetics.

'We support the principle of the exhibition, unlike Lord Rogers who has disassociated himself with the contents of the Dome, ' Farrell said. 'I wouldn't be a party to the project if I didn't believe in it. I'm concerned that the exhibition is about the facts and I am passionate that it's absolutely right to take time to make new discoveries in areas like genetics and then explain them to everyone.' Last month, Rogers distanced himself from the contents of the Millennium Dome, saying it lacked 'vision' and added that he is not responsible for the 'odium' in which the Dome is held (AJ 1.6.00).

One section of the Centre for Life exhibition, called 'Choices', features videoed debates between scientists, celebrities and the public on the pros and cons of the exploitation of genetics, which the protesters say is onesided.

'They think we haven't got the balance right and there is not enough coverage of the dangers of genetic modification, ' said the centre's director, Alistair Balls. 'But our view of this technology is that there is a both a huge power for good and an enormous potential for danger.

The essence of the exhibition is to bring people out of their shells on this issue.'

'The most fascinating thing about this exhibition in that it will be a living, changing museum, because the moral, ethical and scientific issues are about to explode, ' Farrell said. 'I'm all for discovering more and more.'

Despite the protests, visitor numbers at the £60 million centre topped 10,000 during half term last week, just six days after opening to the public.

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