Brussels, 08 Oct 2002
Ethical discussions are just as important when considering genetically modified organisms as when deliberating on stem cell research, according to a new report, published as part of the Danish action plan for biotechnology and ethics.
The report finds that, until now, the regulation of biotechnology in the European Union has primarily been concerned with trade, security and environmental issues, but argues for the inclusion of ethical discussions when debating biotechnology.
'When it comes to regulating the application of genetic technologies to food products, we are in a vacuum in Europe. This is very different from the situation in the medical field where we have a long tradition for bringing ethical concerns to bear on government regulations,' say the report writers: Berit Faber and Linda Nielsen.
The report recognises that there is no one correct way to bring about the inclusion of ethical principles in legislative regulation, but makes a number of recommendations to begin the process.
Recommendations include the inclusion of ethical evaluations in connection with the implementation of biotechnologies, the articulation of criteria and guidelines to serve as a basis for ethical evaluations, and making the decision making process on the application of biotechnologies an open process that secures real influence and co-determination for the general population across the EU.
The authors suggest a two pronged approach to the inclusion of ethical principles: legislation and dialogue. 'Regulation through legislation can't stand alone, we have to make sure that the future EU regulation is based on an open dialogue and transparent decision making procedures,' they say.
'The arrival of the new biotechnologies marks a shift away from the information society towards a bio-society. Bio-ethics combined with an open dialogue that involves ordinary citizens and lay people are important tools that should ensure that the bio-society is also a bio-democracy when the time comes for us to decide how best to use the new technologies.'
More specifically, the report recommends having consensus conferences, future studies panels, value workshops and ethics councils in order to encourage an informed debate. These initiatives have already been tried in Denmark.
The report will provide the basis for discussion at a European workshop in Copenhagen on 8 and 9 October.
For further information on the report, please contact: Berit.firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on the Danish Presidency and biotechnology, please contact: Preben Pettersson Tel: +32 2 233 0871 E-mail: email@example.com