How Dare You Insult Chlorophyll-Kind!

Nature News is reporting that the Swiss government's ethics committee on non-human biotechnology has issued guidelines instructing researchers how to avoid offending the dignity of plants. If their projects are ruled as affronts to plants, their funding will be pulled.

What might constitute undignified interference with plants?

The committee has created a decision tree presenting the different issues that need to be taken into account for each case. But it has come up with few concrete examples of what type of experiment might be considered an unacceptable insult to plant dignity. The committee does not consider that genetic engineering of plants automatically falls into this category, but its majority view holds that it would if the genetic modification caused plants to 'lose their independence' - for example by interfering with their capacity to reproduce. The statement has confused plant geneticists, who point out the contrast with traditional plant-hybridization technologies, for example in roses, which require male sterility, and the commercial development of seedless fruits.

Let's forget modern biotechnology. What about such egregious violations of vegetal dignity as grafting cabernet sauvignon shoots to alien American grape rootstock? And might not hybridization be considered forced plant miscegenation? Also, what could be worse for plant "independence" than domestication? After all, domesticated plants can't thrive without human nurturing. We've turned such crops as corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, and tomatoes into photosynthetic slaves. Finally, what could be more outrageously disrespectful to chlorophyll-kind than being eaten by people? The horror, the horror!

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  • Seer||

    Soylent green is soy!

  • Episiarch||

    Aren't the Swiss usually pretty level-headed and reasonable? And what will happen to Ricola, which is made with herbs (PLANTSSSSSESS, MY PRECIOUS)?

  • ||

    The committee has created a decision tree ...



    Decision tree!!!

    See how they objectify us with their language!!!

    - Outraged Oak

  • jp||

    WTF?

  • Elemenope||

    Obligatory "Disgustipated" reference:

    You see Brother Maynard, tomorrow is harvest day, and to them...it is the Holocaust.

  • ||

    Where do they get these people??
    Why are they allowed to run loose??

  • Billy Madison||

    Chlorophyll?! More like Bore-a-phyll!

  • ||

    How long before the Swiss jail all bees?

  • ||

    but its majority view holds that it would if the genetic modification caused plants to 'lose their independence' - for example by interfering with their capacity to reproduce.

    So basically they are trying to limit the ability of companies like Monsanto to produce and sell you seeds whose plants will not produce seeds of their own thus forcing you to buy new seeds from Monsanto every year.

  • ||

    If it is an intolerable insult to Swiss plant dignity to attempt to eradicate a natural plant (ie, poppies, marijuana), then we can celebrate this decision.

  • Jorgen||

    This is a good idea, actually. Just send of all the bureaucrats and lawmakers to some nice farm somewhere where they can argue about how to preserve the dignity of plants.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom: Please remember that tarmers are not stupid: they won't buy seeds from any one unless they find those seeds useful, e.g., more productive, requiring fewer inputs, etc. I don't see hybrid corn farmers complaining about the fact that they must buy new seeds every year. BTW, just for the record, 2008 is the 100th anniversary of the creation of hybrid corn.

  • ||

    Oops! Typing too fast. tarmers = farmers

  • ||

    Decision tree!!!

    See how they objectify us with their language!!!

    - Outraged Oak


    Indeed! Why must it always be a decision "tree" and not a decision bush or fungus? What about a decision moss? They still have a lot to learn about real plant dignity.

  • Deep Thought||

    If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

  • Beauty||

    Love the rose.

  • ed||

    I can't wait for the checkerboard roses.

  • ||

    avoid offending the dignity of plants.

    Does this mean we can't make fun of Donderoooo any more?

  • ||

    Uh oh... I hope they don't realize that malting barley requires the maltster to terminate the germination process, which could be equated to mass abortion. God help us if these people combine forces with MADD.

  • ||

    Animal rights, then plant rights.

    I guess the next and final step is mineral rights.
    Oops - that phrase is already taken.

  • ||

    WTF?

  • ||

    Why must it always be a decision "tree" and not a decision bush ...?

    It is ALWAYS a decision bush, because he is The Decider!

  • Taktix®||

    I think this is a back-door attempt by the Swiss to legalize sex with cantaloupes.

  • ||

    Europe's War On People, rivals the US War On Drugs, for the blatant stupidity its champions will utter in its defense.

  • ||

    Deep Thought takes the early lead in the threadwinner stakes.

  • robc||

    I dont think the SNL staff is eligible for threadwinner status.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom: Please remember that tarmers are not stupid: they won't buy seeds from any one unless they find those seeds useful, e.g., more productive, requiring fewer inputs, etc. I don't see hybrid corn farmers complaining about the fact that they must buy new seeds every year. BTW, just for the record, 2008 is the 100th anniversary of the creation of hybrid corn.

    Ron,

    My post was merely an indication of why I thought the government was doing this, not whether or not farmers needed/wanted this. This wouldn't be the first time government proposed solutions to non-existent "problems".

    But based on the wording cited, my impression is that Monstanto type seeds are the target of the Swiss committee. The inability to cite any other examples of plant independence abuse seems quite telling.

  • ||

    I would pay good money for a brilliant blue rose. Black tulips are also on my wish list.

  • ed||

    The shit hits the fan as soon as they find the paisley gene.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I don't see hybrid corn farmers complaining about the fact that they must buy new seeds every year.

    And you would seek out these complaints to verify your impression that your view is correct, no?


    I seem to recall some recent protests internationally by farmers who complain about the "have to buy seeds every year" aspects of GM crops. Of course these farmers are just dupes falling for the tricksy socialists and their lies.

    *Full disclosure. I have no problem with GM crops conceptually. There have not been many improvements to traditional varieties in terms of taste, texture and the like, as far as I can tell.

  • ||

    Neu: Farmers protesting non-existent "terminator" seed crops. Yea. I really believe that they did that without being misled by helpful anti-biotech anti-capitalist, anti-corporate NGOs. Perhaps you'd like to verify that fact before citing it.

    As I seem to have to remind people, farmers can avoid "terminator" seeds (or any other seed) simply by not buying them.

  • ||

    How long before the Swiss jail all bees?

    Can't happen, insects have been a protected minority in Europe since 2003. In fact, some college kids in Amsterdam have recently been agitating for full voting rights for hive/colony species.

  • ||

    Does this mean we all have to ebcome geotarians?

  • ||

    Neu: Farmers protesting non-existent "terminator" seed crops. Yea. I really believe that they did that without being misled by helpful anti-biotech anti-capitalist, anti-corporate NGOs. Perhaps you'd like to verify that fact before citing it.

    As I seem to have to remind people, farmers can avoid "terminator" seeds (or any other seed) simply by not buying them.


    "anti-biotech anti-capitalist, anti-corporate NGOs" need to start protesting apple trees...you can't grow edible apples from an apple seed.

  • Bronwyn||

    I dunno, Gaunt. I'm sure somebody could come up with an argument that dirt has feelings, too.

    They'll go after the Haitians, first. Just watch.

  • BakedPenguin||

    robc - "Jack Handey" was from the Phil Hartman era. We should allow it.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    I think I cited the exact counter-evidence you would provide.

    My challenge was for you to verify your opinion that hybrid corn farmers don't complain about the need to buy seeds every year. They have the option not to buy, for sure. That doesn't mean they don't see that as a bug in the product. I buy Microsoft, but complain about it all the time.

    That, however, doesn't fit into the narrative you are trying to create.

  • ||

    Neu: Do you actually know any farmers? Why don't you use Apple or Linux? That's the reason farmers buy hybrid corn seeds. Of course farmers would prefer to use magical self-reproducing corn seeds for free, just as you would prefer to use perfect free software.

  • ||

    What, nobody has mentioned the Iranian rule against seedless watermelon? Promotes homosexuality, you know.

  • ||

    "what could be more outrageously disrespectful to chlorophyll-kind than being eaten by people?"

    How about being eaten by a death-row inmate as his final meal?

  • kinnath||

    My challenge was for you to verify your opinion that hybrid corn farmers don't complain about the need to buy seeds every year.

    As far as I know, farmers tend to change crops (corn vs soybeans) and varieties (different hybrids) on a regular basis to meet market demand and environmental conditions (e.g., no one has planted a damn thing yet here in IA because we haven't had more than two consecutive days of sun the last month).

    The old guys bitch all the time in the local cafe on Saturday morning, but I don't hear them bitching about seed.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    Neu: Do you actually know any farmers?

    Yes.

    Why don't you use Apple or Linux?

    I do on occasion.

    That's the reason farmers buy hybrid corn seeds. Of course farmers would prefer to use magical self-reproducing corn seeds for free, just as you would prefer to use perfect free software.

    Who said anything about perfect or free?

    You claimed that users of GM corn didn't complain about having to buy seeds yearly. They may choose to buy GM corn even though it has a feature they don't like, but that doesn't mean they don't complain about that aspect of the product.

    Think of it as analogous to attempt by the RIAA to include digital copy-protection in CD's and MP3 files

    DRM- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management)

    I like this company's policy on that issue
    http://cdbaby.com/mp3

  • ||

    Chicago Tom -- Among many examples, seedless watermelons would fall under the ban, as would turkeys (the breasts of tom turkeys have been bred to be so huge that the turkeys can't mate. Many varieties of pigs can't go outdoors because they've been bred to be so lean that they can't handle cold.

    Need I go on?

  • ||

    Neu: I didn't write that corn farmers didn't complain about using GM corn. I wrote that they didn't complain about "hybrid" corn. You brought up the NGO incited "complaints" about *GM crops*.

    Your comparison with RIAA copy protection tellingly suggests that you are thinking of non-existent terminator crops. I suspect that terminator crops-should they ever exist--will go the same way as digital copy-protection.

    With all due respect, at least my "narrative" is not a fairytale.

  • ||

    My challenge was for you to verify your opinion that hybrid corn farmers don't complain about the need to buy seeds every year.

    No one is forcing them to buy seeds every year. Plenty of non-hybrid seeds out there that can fertilize and produce viable offspring. The farmers buy the seeds despite the need to buy a fresh batch every year for the same reason people watch TV shows with commercials embedded -- the producers have found a way to sell a good with a built-in solution to free riders to prevent a "tragedy of the commons" problem. Enough people watch and respond to TV commercials to make it profitable to broadcast, and people buy enough of the grain that needs annual repurchases to repay the upfront R&D costs.

    It's an ingenious feature, not a bug.

  • Neu Mejican||

    So, for my position on this...

    I don't think regulations making it illegal for a company to make a product with copy-protection are a good idea.

    If that is the aim of these policies (guidelines? are they inforcable...what is the exact language?) then they are misguided.

    However, libertarians should be worried about the flip side of this issue as well...large corporation whose profits depend upon copy-right protection using the force of government to stifle innovative use of their products.

    Government policies which favor or encourage monopoly power in the food industry seem like the most dangerous kind of government/corporate collaboration.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    The mechanism is actually contractual, not engineered into the crop, true.

  • Brandybuck||

    I think this is a back-door attempt by the Swiss to legalize sex with cantaloupes.



    What? Sex with cantaloupes is illegal? <gulp> I guess that means I'll have to go back to the musk melon.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    I wrote that they didn't complain about "hybrid" corn.

    Yes, but in response to the topic brought up by ChicagoTom, "seeds whose plants will not produce seeds of their own thus forcing you to buy new seeds from Monsanto every year"

    Which is the context in which the RIAA analogy makes sense.

    The current situation uses contractual mechanisms to control the costumer's behavior and protect the corporations intellectual property.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Prolefeed,

    One man's bug is another's feature, for sure.

    People never complain about commercials either, of course.

  • Neu Mejican||

    FWIW,

    The comments at Nature News also quickly went to the terminator crops issue. It seems that the decision tree includes this as one of the branches leading to a "not ethical" decision.

    If that is the motivation behind the "dignity" provision, then it should be discussed even if it is currently a, what was it "fairytale."

    This is about stifling future science not current technology. No?

  • ||

    People never complain about commercials either, of course.

    Of course they complain about the commercials. People hate being prevented from being free riders. Now if some idiots in Congress outlawed commercials, and most broadcasting vanished because of that stupidity, think people might complain about that, too?

    I record all TV shows prior to watching so I can be a free rider and zip through the commercials. If they want me to watch them, they better make commercials that make sense at 16X speed and without sound.

    Or be funny like the Mac nerd vs. cool guy commericials. I back up and watch those at regular speed.

    Or Victoria Secrets commericials, unless the wife is watching, too.

    Or some of the beer commericials.

    People aren't complaining about commercials, but rather unentertaining commercials.

  • ||

    Whoops, the previous comment was mine.

  • Oleg||

    Great news!

    Dignity of plant - sounds pretty stupid, but whatever! It may impede (not stop completely) biotechnology research, but in the end we will be much safer with this kind of regulation.

    By the way, Swiss voted against GMOs some years ago.

  • lunchstealer||

    Fuck you, plant.

    Wait, they're not suggesting that we shouldn't insult Robert Plant are they?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Of well,

    I thought maybe a discussion of intellectual property rights might have emerged from this topic...

    I always find it interesting how the GM issue is full of mis-directed assertions about the other side, when at its essence it is an intellectual property issue. Sure, some of the crazy people in the world see a conspiracy to sap our essential fluids, but most critiques of GM with any thought behind them seem to center on the dangers of ceding control of the food supply to centralized corporate interests.

    ADM and Monsantos have an interest in creating products that they can control so as to maximize profits. If a monopoly phone company was seen as an unwarranted centralization of power, it seems we would want to avoid a similar congealing of market share in the food industry. Discussing this issue is not the same, however, as silly attempts to ban certain research activities...or products.

    But putting the force of government on the side of intellectual property holders needs to be done very carefully to assure that fair use concepts are maintained and honored. Science and culture are collaborative accomplishments...governments should not enforce policies that stifle collaboration, it seems.

  • Charles||

    The same folks that scream "NO GM FOOD!" are also screaming "WE WANT STEM CELL RESEARCH FROM ABORTED FETUSES!".

    About all I can say is WTF?

  • ||

    No peas, no justice.

  • ||

    If it's good for Mr. Bean, I'm in favor.

  • ||

    So may I still, with dignity, be allowed to Visualize Whirled Peas?

  • carbuzzard||

    I don't know whether bananas have dignity, but they certainly have great appeal!

  • Colin||

    "[T]here is no difference appreciable either by the eye, or by any other test, between a germ that will develop into an oak, a vine, a rose, and one that (given its accustomed surroundings) will become a mouse, an elephant, or a man."

    -- Samuel Butler

  • ||

    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

  • ||

    Gee, Carey, that's what my Mom used to tell me all the time at dinner.

  • ||

    The same folks that scream "NO GM FOOD!" are also screaming "WE WANT STEM CELL RESEARCH FROM ABORTED FETUSES!".
    we can solve that problem if we only make soylent green out of people created by artificial insemination (yeah, artificial insemination babies arn't quite due to stem cells - although maybe we can use stem cells to make them green, but they fit well with the whole GM thing)

  • jtuf||

    Epicurus and his followers proved that legumes have souls millennia ago. The data was overwhelming. Every time they ate legumes, the legume souls escaped from their bodies noisily. Of course, I think Epicuris has more worth as a case study for evolution than as a mentor.

  • ||

    dan k:

    Embryonic stem cells are not taken from fetuses, whether aborted or miscarried. By the time development reaches the fetus stage, there are no embryonic stem cells left. As the name implies, embryonic stem cells are taken from early stage embryos.

  • former farmer||

    Neu Mejican: You are completely missing the point. The key word here is hybrid. Farmers don't generally complain about having to buy seed each year because there isn't an alternative (short of growing non-hybrid strains)- this isn't a nefarious corporate plot, it is the nature of hybrid corn (and many other hybrid crops).

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