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Ethics, morality, justice and genetic technologies


The ethics of gene technologies are a big topic and one that has been part of our conversations so far with various groups. As we talk about halting biodiversity decline and aspirations for New Zealand's natural environment, genetic technologies seem to be a welcome consideration. Many people feel they should sit in the nature conservation toolbox to halt pest epidemics and save endangered species. But as the technology advances, do we need to expand our thinking to include ethical, moral and metaphysical concerns and values?

There are many questions to be asked about what is 'right' and 'wrong' as well as what the development and use of these potential technologies would mean for core social values and the trajectory of the New Zealand character.

Introducing genetic technologies such as gene silencing (that is, reducing the expression of genes rather than changing the genes themselves) brings a suite of ethical implications that go beyond the 'technical aspects' of what the technology can 'do'.

Given the intimacy between New Zealanders and their natural environment, human and animal/plant (nonhuman) ethics should, we believe, inform the governance and use of genetic technologies. This might mean asking questions about whether we should interfere with genes, and what that would mean for a species' essence and maybe the species' destiny.

This is hard to talk about, especially when many New Zealanders have yet to experience the use of such technology in their taonga species and environment. Do we humans have the right or duty to do such an act on the essence of life? If so, which life? To restore or enhance that life? Many people seem to be somewhat comfortable with the idea of genetic applications with pest animals because of their impact on our beloved and iconic endangered species, yet should we not also make use of the such genetic technological advances to aid and assist these endangered species? For example, to transplant genes for resistance to myrtle rust into Pohutukawa and Ramarama trees. Or, restore flight to the flightless kiwi bird to escape animal predators. Or should we stop meddling in nature and let life take its course?

Your thoughts? Comment below.

Thanks for reading.

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