Biotechnology Statement of Ethical Principles


BIOTECanada represents biotechnology companies, academic institutions, regional biotechnology centers and related organizations throughout Canada. The members of BIOTECanada apply biological knowledge and techniques to develop products and services for use in health care, agriculture, environmental remediation and other fields. The benefits of these products and services include saving lives threatened by disease, protecting the blood supply from infectious agents, improving the abundance and quality of food, and cleaning up hazardous wastes.

While biotechnology can greatly improve the quality of life, we recognize that this new technology should be approached with an appropriate mixture of enthusiasm, sensitivity to social issues, and acknowledgement of the potential and power of biotechnology. While biotechnology can provide useful tools for combating disease, hunger and environmental contamination it can also raise important ethical issues. These issues can evolve quickly as more development and uses of biotechnology occur.

We respect the power of biotechnology and apply it for the benefit of humankind.

We will pursue applications of biotechnology that promise to save lives or improve the quality of life. We will avoid applications of our technology that do not respect human rights or carry risks that outweigh the potential benefits. We will assure our industry’s activities conform to social norms.

We listen carefully to those who are concerned about the implications of biotechnology and respond to their concerns.

The resolution of bioethical issues requires broad public discourse. We acknowledge our responsibility to consider the interest and ideas of all segments of society. We will seek dialogue with patients, ethicists, religious leaders, health care providers, environmentalists, consumers, legislators, and other groups who share an interest in bioethical issues. We will help in addressing ethical dilemmas in which appropriate courses of action may not be clear.

We help educate the public about biotechnology, its benefits and implications.

For informed debate to occur, the public and our elected representatives need greater knowledge and a better understanding about biotechnology and its applications. BIOTECanada and its members pledge to advance public awareness and understanding.

We place our highest priority on health, safety and environmental protection in the use of our products.

In Canada, biotech products are extensively regulated by federal agencies such as Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Environment Canada to safeguard health, ensure safety and protect the environment.

We respect the directives of ethics boards.

We will abide by their guidance and meet or exceed national standards for ethics in biotechnology research. This includes humane treatment of animals used in research. Biotechnology based products will be developed to improve human and animal nutrition and health, the quality of foods, and the quantity of food.

We are sensitive to and considerate of the ethical and social issues regarding genetic research.

We will not, for example, treat genetic disorders by altering the genes of human sperm or eggs until the medical, ethical and social issues that will arise from this kind of therapy have been more broadly discussed and clarified. Also, we support prohibitions on biotechnology for any application that is contrary to human dignity including cloning of entire human beings, with the understanding that research should continue on the cloning of genes and cells to benefit humankind.

We develop our agricultural products to enhance the world’s food supply, and to promote sustainable agriculture with attendant environmental benefits.

There are significant advantages to increasing the yield of crops. Farmers must produce increasing amounts of food per acre to feed a growing global population. We will develop our products with an eye toward good stewardship of our agricultural and environmental resources and the sustainability of such development. With regard to the development of new agriculture crops, we pledge to abide by established standards of environmental safety at home and abroad.

We develop environmental biotechnology to clean up hazardous waste more efficiently with less disruption to the environment and to prevent pollution by treating waste before it is released.

Many environmental engineering firms, industry, and governments are using biotechnology to harness the power of naturally occurring organisms to degrade contaminants at hazardous waste sites. We will strive to optimize the cost efficiencies and environmental advantages associated with using biotechnology while protecting human health and the environmentally-safe and cost-effective means of treating hazardous waste streams in industrial processes.

We oppose the use of biotechnology to develop weapons.

We support Canadian government policy that clearly and unequivocally states Canada does not at any time intend to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or use chemical or biological agents of weapons.

We continue to support the conservation of biological diversity.

The genetic variation of animals, plants and other organisms is a valuable natural resource. The environment is constantly changing, and without an adequate store of genetic diversity, organisms will not be able to adapt. Genetic diversity decreases, however, every time a species, breed or crop variety becomes extinct. Working with governments and other organizations, will help to catalog and conserve these precious resources.