Sensitive Swiss Ban Plant Humiliation

Genetic research must not violate the dignity of wheat

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 10, 2008 5:37 PM CDT

(Newser) – Swiss scientists eager to carry out genetic experiments on plants can’t be rash—they must first consider the how their actions make that tulip feel. Government-backed ethicists studied the effects of such experimentation on plants’ dignity; they found that it was wrong to hurt plants for no reason, or to genetically render them sterile, the Wall Street Journal reports. The finding sparked new rules, based on a constitutional amendment.

The 1990s amendment was made to protect all living things from indignities borne of genetic tweaking. Now, when a scientist wants to conduct field trials on plants, he or she must first make the case that the procedures won’t be harmful. “It's one more constraint on doing genetic research,” says a Swiss scientist. But “where does it stop?” wondered a colleague. “Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?"

"Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously," a Zurich researcher says of the rule.   (Shutterstock)
Researchers had to explain why wheat experiments wouldn't harm the plants' dignity.   (Shutterstock)
Plants' dignity is protected "as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured," a panel found.   (Shutterstock)
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