October 11, 2008

Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish and Short?
Cool! When Can We Start?

The WSJ reports how the Swiss--the hardheaded Swiss for heaven's sake--have voted plants' rights:
Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich,...recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn't "disturb the vital functions or lifestyle" of the plants. He eventually got the green light.

The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora's dignity.
"Where does it stop?" asks Yves Poirier, a molecular biologist at the laboratory of plant biotechnology at the University of Lausanne. "Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?"

Seeking clarity, Dr. Poirier recently invited the head of the Swiss ethics panel to his university. In their public discussion, Dr. Poirier said the new rules are flawed because decades of traditional plant breeding had led to widely available sterile fruit, such as seedless grapes. Things took a surreal turn when it was disclosed that some panel members believe plants have feelings, Dr. Poirier says.
This is a willing return to primitivism. It is much loonier than Lysenkoism or Algorism, which at least have the virtue(!) of being frauds.

Ecuador rolls back the Western imperialist heritage:
In another unusual move, the people of Ecuador last month voted for a new constitution that is the first to recognize ecosystem rights enforceable in a court of law. Thus, the nation's rivers, forests and air are no longer mere property, but right-bearing entities with "the right to exist, persist and...regenerate."
Back to Dr. Keller:
One morning recently, he stood by a field near Zurich where the three-year trial with transgenic wheat is under way. His observations suggest that the transgenic wheat does well in the wild. Yet Dr. Keller's troubles aren't over.

In June, about 35 members of a group opposed to the genetic modification of crops, invaded the test field. Clad in white overalls and masks, they scythed and trampled the plants, causing plenty of damage.

"They just cut them," says Dr. Keller, gesturing to wheat stumps left in the field. "Where's the dignity in that?"
Yeah right, sneer I, channeling the Progressive Soul. And I bet Dr. KKKeller believes says Sarah Palin is a woman and Clarence Thomas is black.

Addendum. The Swiss Constitution is here. See in particular Articles 78 and 120.

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