October 18th, 2008 by Meg Hamill
A new amended law in Switzerland protects the dignity of vegetation.
A law protecting the dignity of plants? Laugh if you will. I’m down on my knees in respect and awe. At last the Western World is realizing the dire importance of taking other species into account.
Recently, the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to determine the meaning of dignity when it pertains to plants.
Lo and Behold, the team published a treatise on “the moral consideration of plants for their own sake.” The treatise established that vegetation has innate value and that it is morally wrong to partake in activities such as the “decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.”
Over a decade ago, an amendment was added to the Swiss constitution in order to defend the dignity of all creatures — including vegetation — against unwanted repercussions of genetic engineering. The amendment was turned into law and is known as the Gene Technology Act. However the law itself didn’t say anything specific about plants, until recently, when the law was amended to include them.
The obvious question at hand: how does this new ruling affect the production of genetically modified organisms?
Beat Keller is a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. Keller recently asked permission of the government to conduct a field trial of a genetically modified wheat bred with a resistance to fungus. In order to actually gain permission to go ahead with the trial, he needed to hash out the potential threats to the dignity of the wheat.
The majority of the panel agrees that genetically modified plants are ok, “as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured.” In other words, no forced sterility and terminator genes.
And Keller did, in the end, get to plant his GMO grain.
“Where does it stop?” asks Yves Poirier, a molecular biologist at the laboratory of plant biotechnology at the University of Lausanne. “Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?”
And even though I think it’s a great law, where does it stop? How humiliated is a boiled potato? A peeled carrot? Corn turned into a lowly, tortilla chip meant for dipping?
Source: Wall Street Journal
Photo: Wikimedia under a Creative Commons Lisence
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