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June 2001 - Nr. 6


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New Advisory Council to Review Ethics of Genetic Technology

  TWIG - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has assembled a new ethics council to address the difficult questions that are emerging with new developments in genetic technology. The 24-member council includes scientists and human rights advocates from a wide variety of fields, said Government Spokesperson Uwe-Karsten Heye reported after the cabinet met in Berlin Wednesday (May 2). Its chief task will be to promote and clarify the debate on bioethics to help develop policy, said Heye. The council will also provide citizens with an independent source of information, invite public discussion and represent Germany’s position on ethics and gene technology internationally.

Germany has been wrestling with the ethical questions surrounding genetics for more than a decade now, and recent breakthroughs in the understanding of the human genome have only added to the urgency of the debate. Many in Germany find themselves torn between interest in the potential, medical and economic, of biotechnology and repugnance at the thought of cloning or genetically engineering humans. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, for example, has expressed interest in seeing Germany become a world leader in biotech, but he has also made clear he is opposed to "the cloned, the optimized, the genetically selected human." "Gene technology is a subject that concerns us all," Schröder noted when he announced plans for the ethics council. "And in the end society will have to decide what it considers socially responsible."

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