Some Environmental and Ethical Considerations
of Genetically Engineered Plants and Foods
Philip L. Bereano
At a symposium at the University of Washington Law School in October 1993 (on the eve of President Clinton's Asian Pacific Economic Council 'Summit'), when discussing the 'Future of Intellectual Property Protection for Biotechnology in the US, EC, and Japan', Joseph Straus of the Max Planck Institute ( Germany) warned the participants against 'ethics and other irrational considerations'. Indeed, except for a very narrow band of 'moral dilemma' situations which are the stock-in-trade of professional biomedical ethicists, the ethical aspects of genetic engineering have been routinely ignored by government policy-makers and corporate technology promoters.
My thesis is that it has been the corporate promoters and their governmental handmaidens who have been 'irrational' in their systematic refusal to acknowledge the environmental and ethical considerations of genetic manipulation.
Technologies, by definition, are neither acts of God nor nature; they are the embodiment of specific human purposes and intentionality. Far from being inevitable, they are researched and developed by those entities with sufficient power to mobilize social institutions to bring the technology into being, according to their own goals and normative considerations. 'Biotechnology is not neutral. It shares the propensity of modern materialistic science to desacralise, dominate and manipulate life. It reduces all living things to a mechanism which it can manipulate according to engineering standards.' 1
Genetic engineering is a technological process for undertaking activities which do not, and cannot, occur in nature. In this sense it is perfectly legitimate, therefore, to label genetic engineering as 'unnatural'. The European Community