Demonstrators yesterday said they held the largest rally ever in the U.S. against genetically modified (GM) foods, as they protested in Oakland outside the last of three Food and Drug Administration hearings on the foods. However, in a sign that scientists might begin to actively defend biotech, about 30 professors and graduate students from the University of California campuses in Davis and Berkeley held a counter-demonstration. Many of the Berkeley scientists are part of the university’s department of plant and microbial biology, which last year struck a deal with the Swiss biotech powerhouse Novartis to receive $25 million in research funds. At the public hearing itself, the FDA heard similarly divergent views from industry advocates and opponents. Meanwhile, following the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle earlier this month, the European Union is vowing to press ahead with tough new measures to control trade in the foods.