Feeds

Swiss ponder the 'dignity of plants'

Biotech guidelines tackle thorny issue

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A Swiss government ethics committee has issued guidelines on the thorny issue of the "dignity of plants" in relation to biotech research after the country's 2004 Gene Technology Law declared that "the dignity of creatures" should be considered in any grant-funded research.

According to Nature, while this phrase attracted plenty of flak for its "general woolliness", it certainly includes plants. The powers that be therefore mandated the committee two years ago to clarify the matter.

Member Markus Schefer, a constitution lawyer at the University of Basel, said: “My first reaction was - what the heck are we doing considering the dignity of plants. But this very broad provision exists, and we have to help to prevent a legal mire.”

He added: "At the moment not even authorities who decide on grants know what the 'dignity of plants' really means. That's why we were asked to deliberate.”

The upshot of the deliberations is that "all plant biotechnology grant applications must now include a paragraph explaining the extent to which plant dignity is considered".

Specifically, the committee has issued a "decision tree presenting the different issues that need to be taken into account for each case".

It has also presented "concrete examples of what type of experiment might be considered an unacceptable insult to plant dignity". While it has conceded that GM modification of plants doesn't automatically offend said dignity, experiments which caused them to "lose their independence" would do so.

This independence might be exemplified by the ability to reproduce - the removal of which would breach the guidelines. Nonplussed biologists have pointed out this is at odds with "traditional plant-hybridization technologies, for example in roses, which require male sterility, and the commercial development of seedless fruits". ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.