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German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer Calls for International Accord on Human Genetics

Genetic Crossroads
October 25th, 2002

Participants at a June 2002 Franco-German forum on "Towards a Global Bioethic?" were welcomed with an eloquent speech by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer about the social challenges posed by human biotechnology.

Fischer is leader of the German Greens and one of Europe's most highly-regarded political leaders. In his address he strongly endorsed the German-French initiative for a United Nations treaty prohibiting reproductive cloning, and called for a global accord on the new human genetic technologies. "If this has proved possible in the field of human rights, civil and social rights as well as environmental protection," he said, "why should it not be possible, too, in the field of biopolicy and bioethics?... I am convinced this is the course we have to take if we want to leave our children and grandchildren a world worth living in."

Fischer expressed particular concern about inheritable genetic modification (IGM): "Technically it is probably just a matter of time until we are capable of manipulating to suit ourselves the genetic endowment of our offspring. In terms of its impact on humanity, however, that would be an unparalleled quantum leap. It could lead to the eugenic selection of desirable qualities possibly on a systematic basis...

"[W]ould not the creation of two different categories of people, those born the way they are and those whose genes have been manipulated and supposedly `improved,' seriously undermine the notions of liberty and equality we so highly prize and, by the same token, the very foundations on which democracy and human rights are built? What would it mean for democracy, for a society that calls itself civilized, if the equality of all human beings were no longer recognized as sacrosanct?"

For the full text of Fischer's speech see http://www.genetics-and-society.org/resources/items/20020603_fischer.html


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