Thursday, May 1, 2008

Be mindful of a plant's dignity.

This from Nature:

The Swiss federal government's ethics committee on non-human biotechnology has mapped out guidelines to help granting agencies decide which research applications deeply offend the dignity of plants — and hence become unfundable.
Ummm... dignity of plants? Oy. When I eat plants, do I offend their dignity?
Although most people might be bewildered that a discussion on how to define 'plant dignity' should be taking place at all, the stakes for Swiss plant scientists are high. The Gene Technology Law, which came into effect in 2004, stipulates that 'the dignity of creatures' should be considered in any research. The phrase has been widely criticized for its general woolliness, but it indisputably includes plants.

All plant biotechnology grant applications must now include a paragraph explaining the extent to which plant dignity is considered. “But scientists don't know what it means,” says Beat Keller of the Institute of Plant Biology at the University of Zurich who is running the first field trial — of disease-resistant corn (maize) — to be approved under the new legislation.

“At the moment not even authorities who decide on grants know what the 'dignity of plants' really means,” says Markus Schefer, a constitution lawyer at the University of Basel and a member of the ethics committee. “That's why we were asked to deliberate.”

The constitution says that the 'dignity of creatures' must be taken into account in the gene-technology arena, which is why the term has been adopted into the regulations. The government called on the advice of its ethics committee two years ago to help develop a definition for plants. “My first reaction was — what the heck are we doing considering the dignity of plants,” says Schefer. “But this very broad provision exists, and we have to help to prevent a legal mire.”
This deserves no more comment than to say it is absolutely and totally nutty. Please, someone, take the keys away from the nuts who wrote this law.



David Amulet said...

I'm sorry, you lost me at "dignity of plants." What's next, dignity of rocks? Dust? Atoms?

The Factician said...

Yep, it's totally nutty. Sounds like some new-agey BS to me. Trying to find who sponsored the legislation.

More later...