Swiss Plants Have Rights

Laws now force people to treat plants with dignity

  Swiss plants are now protected against abuse and adverse experimental effects

Law-makers in Switzerland really outdid themselves this time, with the introduction of an amendment to a 10-year-old law that legally protected the dignity of all living things. The new measure states that plants have to be treated with dignity as well, and that all abuses in that direction, such as "decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason," will be punished.

For the purpose of coming up with a sound definition of what plant humiliation meant, Swiss authorities formed some sort of committee, made up of lawyers, geneticists, theologians and philosophers. After careful consideration of all aspects of a plant's rather exciting life, the assembly decided to publish a treatise on "the moral consideration of plants for their own sake." The document holds that the plants and all forms of vegetation have an innate value and that harmful activities towards them are morally incorrect.

In an unexpected side-effect, companies that experiment on plants to create new, viable genetically modified organisms (GMOs), found out that they had to pass a test before they could begin their scientific research. In the test, they had to prove that the dignity of the plants they used was not trampled in any way. Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich, had to evidence this before a board, in order to receive the go ahead for one of his plant researches.

The law agrees that modifying and experimenting on plants to create genetic hybrids is advisable, but only "as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured." In other words, no more terminator genes built inside the plants when they are engineered and no more sterile wheat and grain. The sterility of the plants has been a long time standing environmentalist concern, considering that farmers using this type of seeds had to buy them every year, bringing industry companies huge profits.

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By    22 Oct 2008, 07:09 GMT