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A Genetic Bill of Rights

From the Council for Responsible Genetics

EarthLight Magazine #40, Winter 2001

Our life and health depend upon an intricate web of relationships within the biological and social worlds.  Protection of these relationships must inform all public policy.

      Commercial, governmental, scientific, and medical institutions promote manipulation of genes despite profound ignorance of how such changes may affect the web of life.  Once they enter the environment, organisms with modified genes cannot be recalled and pose novel risks to humanity and the entire biosphere.

      Manipulation of human genes creates new threats to the health of individuals and their offspring, and endangers human rights, privacy, and dignity.

      Genes, other constituents of life, and genetically modified organisms themselves are rapidly being patented and turned into objects of commerce.
This commercialization of life is veiled behind promises to cure disease and feed the hungry.

      People everywhere have the right to participate  in evaluating the social and biological implications of the genetic revolution and in democratically guiding its applications.

      To protect our human rights and integrity and the biological integrity of the Earth, we, therefore, propose this Genetic Bill of Rights.

      1.   All people have the right to preservation of the Earth’s biological and genetic diversity.

      2.   All people have the right to a world in which living organisms cannot be patented, including human beings, animals, plants, microorganisms, and all their parts.

      3.   All people have the right to a food supply that has not been genetically engineered.

      4.   All indigenous peoples have the right to manage their own biological resources, to preserve their traditional knowledge, and to protect these from expropriation and biopiracy by scientific, corporate, or government interests.

      5.   All people have the right to protection from toxins, other contaminants, or actions that can harm their genetic makeup and that of their offspring.

      6.   All people have the right to protection against eugenic measures such as forced sterilization or mandatory screening aimed at aborting or manipulating selected embryos or fetuses.

      7.   All people have the right to genetic privacy including the right to prevent the taking or storing of bodily samples for genetic information without their voluntary informed consent.

      8.   All people have the right to be free from genetic discrimination.

      9.   All people have the right to DNA tests to defend themselves in criminal proceedings.

      10.   All people have the right to have been conceived, gestated, and born without genetic manipulation.

      © 2000 Council for Responsible Genetics.  All Rights Reserved.  May be reproduced without permission only in its entirety, including this copyright notice.

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