Rachel's Precaution Reporter #28
"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"
Wednesday, March 8, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
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:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Table of Contents... Seattle Comprehensive Plan Incorporates Precaution Thanks to more than two years of hard work by the Seattle Precautionary Principle Working Group, the Seattle Comprehensive Plan has now been amended to include reference to the precautionary principle. 'At-Risk' Birth Register Is Possible Solution to Future Crime As New Zealand's prisons bulge with new inmates, a retired Family Court judge tells how potential future criminals could be helped at birth by an 'at-risk' birth register. In Canada, the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement Requires Precaution A stunning new agreement, negotiated over the past 10 years, allows millions of acres of land in Canada to be managed in accordance with ecosystem-based guidelines, including the precautionary principle. Does God Oppose the Precautionary Principle? This author says the Bible reveals that God wants humans to genetically engineer plants, so applying the precautionary principle to genetically modified crops is a theological error. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Seattle Comprehensive Plan, Mar. 5, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] SEATTLE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN INCORPORATES PRECAUTION [Here is the new language of the Introduction to the Environment Element of the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. Its origins can be found in a white paper on precaution by the Seattle Precautionary Principle Working Group.] Environment Element of Seattle's Comprehensive Plan Introduction Environmental stewardship is a core value of this Plan, and it plays an integral role in guiding how the City accommodates growth and provides services. There are many ways the City can protect and improve the environment while acting in its roles as a large employer, builder, land owner and regulator. For example, the City can lead by its own behavior in delivering services, operating its facilities and managing its land in an environmentally sustainable manner. When environmental goals compete with other City goals, such as those related to economic development, the City is committed to giving just consideration to the environmental goals to protect the functions that natural systems can perform and to prevent harmful effects on human health. The City will continue to engage the community about ways in which the City can give consideration to the "precautionary principle," which generally provides: "Where threats of serious or irreversible harm to people or nature exist, anticipatory action will be taken to prevent damages to human and environmental health, even when full scientific certainty about cause and effect is not available, with the intent of safeguarding the quality of life of current and future generations." This element of the Plan contains broad environmental goals and policies. Some of the Plan's other elements include goals and policies addressing how environmental values specifically relate to the topics covered in those elements. For instance, the Land Use Element includes policies governing development near environmentally critical areas such as wetlands and stream corridors, and the Transportation Element addresses possible environmental impacts and improvements associated with transportation choices. [snip] Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: New Zealand Press Association, Mar. 7, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] 'AT-RISK' BIRTH REGISTER IS POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO FUTURE CRIME By Janne Hamilton Auckland, New Zealand -- A child in his or her first three years of life exposed to neglect and violence may be heading straight to a life of crime, a former Human Rights Commissioner and recently retired district and family court judge says. Graeme MacCormick has released a paper calling for all newborns to be placed on a national "at-risk" register so child services can identify which children, and their caregivers, need assistance and support -- before it's too late. "It is from disadvantaged children, those not given a good start in life, that most of our young and not so young criminal offenders come," Mr MacCormick said. "We cannot afford more police, more court staff, more judges, more prisons, more accident and emergency and mental health workers, more wasted lives, than we already have." New research by New Zealand's Brainwave Trust shows a baby's brain is only 15 percent formed at birth, with the remaining 85 percent being formed in the first three years. "Neglect, violence and abuse during these years can damage normal brain development resulting in the profound and permanent disruption to the brain's structure, leading to lifelong social, emotional and learning difficulties," according to website of the trust made up doctors, educationalists, academic and business professionals. Babies deprived of stimulating experiences and love, for example, have been found to have brains 20-30 percent smaller than others of their age. According to the trust, for a baby's brain to develop, the brain cells (neurones) need to be activated to connect up to each other -- these connections allow basic survival functions. The average three-year-old living in a stimulating, secure and loving environment will have 1000 trillion of these connections. "What the child sees, hears, touches, smells, and feels triggers electrical activity causing neurones to mature and connections, pathways and networks to form." Mr MacCormick said risk factors likely to hinder a baby's brain development includes alcohol or drug abuse by their parents or caregivers, a history of family violence, poverty, solo-parenting and transitoriness. He said it was often a combination of factors that leads to an infant being deprived of a secure, stimulating and loving environment. "When the child is actually on the way and for the first two or three years after it arrives...is when [parents] need maximum assistance." Mr MacCormick said the needs/risk assessment could be done in most cases by the health professional primarily responsible for the birth itself. He said if the assessment was objective and mandatory it could not be deemed selective. "Although there are personal information, privacy, choice and freedom issues...the right of children to the best possible start in life and societal benefits should and must outweigh the rights of parents and caregivers." Dr Simon Rowley, a neonatal paediatrician at National Women's Hospital and Brainwave Trustee, said studies in Dunedin and Christchurch, as well as overseas, had shown it was possible to predict who would have a bad childhood from the time of birth onwards. "You can look at the infants styles of interaction -- withdrawing children who don't wish to communicate socially, constantly crying miserable kids." He said an at-risk national birth register was a good suggestion, but its implementation would have to be sensitive. "It might sound big-brotherish, but it's not saying "well we think you are bad people", it's saying "look we know you guys are starting on the back foot, let's push you forward"." Dr Rowley said already established programmes -- Hippy, First Start, -- which went into low socioeconomic pockets of society where it was identified to be needed -- but they were only hitting a small percentage of the population. To reach the entire population, he said, it would need to be a government-sponsored initiative -- and that signalled money. Dr Rowley said similar case studies overseas have cost millions of dollars. Mr MacCormick acknowledged there would be high costs and a lot of manpower needed to establish and implement an at-risk national registry. "[But] the costs of doing nothing are huge." In his paper Mr MacCormick presents estimated costs of child abuse and prison services. In the year to June 30, 2005, Child, Youth and Family Services received more than 53,000 abuse and neglect notifications, of which 43,000 required some follow up -- the estimated cost of child abuse, according to Brainwave Trust, has been estimated at $393,000,000. Mr MacCormick said approximately $54,560 was spent on a prisoner per annum in custodial services alone -- this was before adding the costs of preceding criminal trials. He said there was also the uncounted costs to families and the next generation who have spent their formative years exposed to daily family/whanau violence. Progressive MP Matt Robson, the former Minister of Corrections 1999-2002 said a ministerial report showed the cost to intervene a defiant, rule-breaking five-year-old was $5,000 a case, with a 70 percent success rate. The same behaviour by a 25-year-old cost $20,000 a case, with a success rate of 20 percent at most. Mr Robson said prisons reflected a lot about the country's social needs: "Most of our prisoners, for example, come from the pool of 530,000 adult New Zealanders who are either totally or functionally illiterate." Mr MacCormick said it would be better to identify "at risk" children at or before birth, instead of waiting for them to be picked up a few years down the track at Child, Youth and Family Services or the Youth Court. He proposed for those at-risk children that slipped through the cracks at birth the assessment would catch them at specific age intervals (two, six, 10 and 14), and would in essence be emotional, psychological and physical health and welfare checks. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: The Dominion, Mar. 7, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] A BEAR OF A DEAL A decade of negotiations give way to an unprecedented agreement By Yuill Herbert, The Dominion In February, the Great Bear Rainforest agreement was announced in the media around the world; the story was printed in over a thousand newspapers, including coverage in India, Russia and China. The agreement covers an area that represents 45 per cent of North America's three temperate rainforest ecoregions. New parks total 1.8 million hectares -- more than three times the size of Prince Edward Island. Another 4.6 million hectares are subject to a strict new management regime that puts the ecosystem first. The Great Bear Rainforest contains the world's largest tracts of intact temperate rainforest, and it is home to spawning runs for 20 per cent of the world's remaining wild salmon. The area is so rich in wildlife and flora that biologists have compared it to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon jungles. The agreement means that habitat for endangered species including grizzlies, the total population of 400 white "spirit" bears, coastal wolves, peregrine falcons, and the Northern Goshawk is preserved. Unprecedented collaboration In 1993, following protests and blockades, the British Columbia government announced the Clayoquot compromise -- a deal that protected 33 per cent of the region, leaving the rest to be logged. The decision sparked the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada's history; that summer more than 850 people were arrested. First Nations were not consulted and the communities remain divided over logging in Clayoquot Sound. The focus shifted to the Great Bear Rainforest with its hundreds of pristine and intact watersheds. In a high profile international campaign, a collaboration of environmental groups forced the customers of the companies operating in the Great Bear Rainforest to cancel contracts. Over 80 companies, including Ikea, Home Depot, Staples and IBM, committed to stop selling wood and paper products made from ancient forests. As a result of the market pressure lumber companies on the coast began to shift their approach and agreed to sit down with the environmental groups. "It was tough in the beginning, but everyone agreed in the end," says Lisa Matthaus of the Sierra Club. "People came to accept that they no longer had the social licence to log in the way or in the places that they were, so it had to change." The Joint Solutions Project was formed in 2000 as an initiative between coastal forest companies and a coalition of environmental groups including ForestEthics, Sierra Club of BC, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network. While a land use plan was being developed, the coastal forest industry agreed to stop logging in exchange for a hold on the environmental groups' market campaigns. They then agreed to create a team of international and local scientists to create ecosystem-based management (EBM) for the coastal forests using the best available conservation biology. Environmental groups and industry each raised $600,000 to support this process with provincial and federal governments providing the remainder. ======================================================== Sidebar: Ecosystem-Based Management Guiding Principles Ecological Integrity Is Maintained: Biological richness and the ecosystem services provided by natural terrestrial and marine processes are sustained at all scales through time. Wellbeing Is Promoted: A diversity of economic opportunities is key to healthy communities and sustainable economies. Cultures, Communities, and Economies Are Sustained within the Context of Healthy Ecosystems: This idea of entrenching a demand for both human wellbeing and ecosystem integrity veers sharply away from thinking in terms of a "trade-off" between people and the environment. Aboriginal Rights and Title Are Recognized and Accommodated: First Nations assert aboriginal rights and title to the lands and resources within their territories. The Precautionary Principle Is Applied: the proponent of change in the ecosystem should err on the side of caution, and the onus is on the proponent to show that ecological risk thresholds are not exceeded. EBM Is Collaborative: Collaborative processes are broadly participatory; respect the diverse values, traditions, and aspirations of local communities, and incorporate the best of existing knowledge (traditional, local, and scientific). People Have a Fair Share of the Benefits from the Ecosystems in Which They Live: In the past, the burdens imposed on the local communities by externally driven activities have been greater than the benefits the communities have received. Source: Coast Information Team (2004): Ecosystem-based Management Framework. ======================================================== Two multi-stakeholder processes had been mandated by the province to develop land use plans for the Great Bear Rainforest region. The Joint Solutions Project fed the conclusions of its scientific work into this process. Meanwhile, but separately, the David Suzuki Foundation was working with a group of eight coastal First Nations in an initiative called the Turning Point to develop a set of principles for EBM. To many coastal First Nations, EBM represents a scientific articulation of thousands of years of cultural practice and traditional resource use. The area that is not protected will be managed according to the EBM process. "This is a transformation of what happens in the British Columbia forest," Merran Smith of ForestEthics says. "The revolution is looking at a standing forest not as a commodity, but as an economic model based on conservation." The BC government took the land use plans developed by the multi- stakeholder committees and entered into unprecedented government-to- government negotiations with the First Nations, who had developed their own land use plans. The final outcome is a compromise between the two parties. "It's a cultural shift," says Shawn Kenmuir, an area manager for Triumph Timber, which has already forsaken old clear-cut practices and begun consulting with the Gitga'at before cutting on their traditional lands. "We've started the transition from entitlement to collaboration." Many areas that will be preserved have been chosen based on the oral tradition of native groups and the opinions of their elders. These include areas with cultural significance such as ancient cemeteries, or areas that contain medicinal herbs and cedars big enough to make totem poles, canoes and longhouses. "We are [excited]. We all [coastal First Nations] came together and agreed to something that hasn't happened for a long time", says Ross Wilson, chairman of the tribal council of the Heiltsuk, one of the native nations involved. "Now we can manage our destiny. Without this agreement, we would be going to court forever and we would have to put our children and old ladies dressed in button blankets in the way of the chain saws." Transforming the economy "For all the First Nations the value to protect the Great Bear Rainforest is utmost, not only for cultural and environmental but also for economic reasons," says Ross Wilson. To emphasize the economic benefits of preservation, he adds, "The hunter comes in and pays a lot for one night but you can never see that bear again; with wildlife viewing, as long as that bear lives you can have tourism activities that happen year after year." This philosophy is supported by an innovative $120 million endowment to support the creation of a conservation economy in the Great Bear Rainforest. It includes: $30 million contributed by the BC government to help ease the transition of impacted forestry workers; $60 million raised by the US-based Nature Conservancy from donors and foundations; and a $30 million contribution from the federal government. The endowment includes a Coast Conservation Fund that will invest in skills development and monitoring amongst First Nations to guarantee the implementation of the Great Bear Agreement. A Coast Economic Development Fund will invest in shellfish aquaculture, cruise-ship tourism, sustainable forestry, conservation activities, fisheries, high-end lodge tourism, and pine mushroom harvesting, potentially creating up to 1700 new jobs. In addition, Vancouver-based credit union VanCity will create an innovative fund with up to $80 million dollars from socially responsible investors for sustainable economic initiatives on the coast. Challenges Remain Environmental groups acknowledge that challenges remain. It is not clear what EBM will actually look like on the ground. A number of First Nations groups have yet to sign government-to-government agreements. Both the David Suzuki Foundation and the Raincoast Conservation Society point out that the agreement does not meet the minimum target of 44 per cent protection that the scientific body indicated was required to ensure that biodiversity is maintained. "Raincoast supports the legislating of the proposed protected areas, but the province should do so with the full knowledge and recognition that lasting protection of the Great Bear Rainforest will require additional steps and commitment from all parties," says Raincoast Conservation Society's executive director, Chris Genovali. The entire population of the spirit bear lives in the Great Bear Rainforest photo: Forest Ethics And, as the Globe and Mail article pointed out, if the lifting of the oil and gas moratorium on the BC coast will mean that supertankers loaded with tar sands oil enter the Queen Charlottes basin, then an ecosystem that is inextricably linked with the ocean will be endangered. "Greenpeace will be watching to see if the British Columbian government follows through on these commitments and takes this opportunity to make the Great Bear Rainforest a global model of forest sustainability," says Amanda Carr, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Acton Institute, Mar. 5, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] A THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATING GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD By Jordan J. Ballor The public debate regarding genetically modified (GM) food has for the most part been driven by practical considerations. For those on the side of GM food, the economic and social benefits far outweigh any possible negative consequences (if there even are any). In this vein, Reason magazine science correspondent Ronald Bailey points out, "With biotech corn, U.S. farmers have saved an estimated $200 million by avoiding extra cultivation and reducing insecticide spraying. U.S. cotton farmers have saved a similar amount and avoided spraying 2 million pounds of insecticides by switching to biotech varieties." On the other side is a group which believes the possible threats posed by genetic engineering far outweigh the projected benefits. Representative of this position are Martin Teitel and Kimberly Wilson, who write, "Genetic engineering is an unasked-for technology dependent on new and inadequately controlled techniques, and it is a technology based on the release of organisms into the environment whose aggressive but dimly understood reproduction threatens the entire ecosystem." The limits of both these arguments are essentially the same: they argue primarily, if not solely on the basis of pragmatic concerns. While these arguments are attractive, especially to American common sense, they are not comprehensive nor adequate in and of themselves. Pragmatic considerations certainly have an important place in the discussion, but only one posterior to ethical and theological considerations. The theological background of ethics is essential for this discussion, because religious groups have begun to weigh in on the issue and lend their moral credibility to the discussion. For example, the Ecumenical Consultative Working Group on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, a coalition comprised of members from various "mainline" Christian denominations and para-church organizations, authored a study which concludes, "It has yet to be demonstrated that agricultural genetic engineering, as it exists in the current system, safeguards the common good, human dignity, the sacredness of life and stewardship." The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has a working group which addresses the issue of GM foods. ICCR aims to make sure GM foods are highly regulated and wants to "ban the use of food crops to produce pharmaceutical or industrial enzymes and chemicals." So far, the majority voice of religious communities has come out decidedly against GM foods. The remainder of this essay will attempt to bring the focus back one or two steps to the theological foundations for any ethical decision about the activity of engaging in genetic modification. We will find that, in general, a biblical-theological framework provides some important general affirmations of the genetic engineering movement with regard to food. This theological framework will be explicitly Christian, although to a lesser or greater extent it may find some measure of acceptance within the broader Judeo-Christian tradition and beyond. I will first address the general mandate in Genesis 1 to be creative and productive stewards, and then move on to address the effect of the Fall and the curse in Genesis 3. Some brief observations about the reality and implications of human salvation in Jesus Christ with an implicit eschatological perspective will follow. I will conclude after a short comment on the applicability of these conclusions to the issue of genetic engineering of humans. Creation -- Genesis 1:26-30 (NIV) 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." These three verses form a complex and interrelated picture of the original state of humanity. Created in the image of God, human beings are placed in dominion over "all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." In this way, v. 26 speaks to the placement of human beings as God's earthly representatives. Within the original Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context of this passage, the language of "image-bearing" would have been immediately understandable. When a vassal or representative of the king spoke or acted with the authority of the king, he was said to "bear the image" of the king, a physical representation of the king and his authority. Verse 27 narrates the creation of human beings alluded to in the previous verse, and the placement as God's image-bearers, representatives of the divine King. There are, of course, no rights or privileges without responsibility, so on the heels of the creation of human beings and their placement in dominion, we find the corresponding responsibilities and blessings laid out in v. 28. Verse 28 is most often understood in terms of "stewardship," and here again we run up against the political and social structure of the ANE. A steward was one who was in charge of a household or kingdom during the ruler's absence. Humans, in exercising their exalted place of stewardship, are to be productive and creative rulers of the earth. This is the norm of human existence and the standard to which we are called. 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it -- I give every green plant for food." And it was so. Verses 29 and 30 are not usually included in an examination of the previous three verses, but given the topic under discussion they could hardly be excluded. Indeed, we see here that the plants are originally given and intended to provide for the life of the rest of creation, especially those creatures with the "breath of life." The original purpose for plants was to be food for humans (and animals) and in this way to sustain life. This will become important as we deal with the implications of sin and the Fall on creation. Fall -- Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV) 17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it," "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Because of the sin of the first couple, we have here in these verses a portion of the curse for violation of God's command. The effect here primarily is pointed toward the earth and the ground, out of which the plants in Gen. 1:29-30 grow. Humans are bound to the earth and plantlife for their survival because of the relationship God sets up in Gen. 1:29-30, but because of the Fall this previously harmonious relationship is changed into opposition. After the Fall, plants no longer function in the way they were intended at creation. Now plants will only sustain human life through difficult labor. Humans must work to bring out the life-giving power of plants to sustain themselves. Luther, in his commentary on these verses of Genesis, writes that because of this curse, the earth "does not bring forth the good things it would have produced if man had not fallen.... It produces many harmful plants, which it would not have produced, such as darnel, wild oats, weeds, nettles, thorns, thistles. Add to these the poisons, the injurious vermin, and whatever else there is of this kind. All of these were brought in through sin." Redemption and Consummation Luther also notes, along with Paul, that "the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21 NIV). Here we have a hint at the reversal of the curse on the human-earth relationship. Paul continues in this section to address the "firstfruits of the Spirit" which believers have received after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our task as believers is to bear witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ. This work has begun to reverse the effects of sin and the curse, first and especially in the lives of believers, but also through the grateful work of believers, who are seeking to live up to their calling as faithful stewards. The original purpose of plants was to provide sustenance for life, as is illustrated in Gen. 1:29-30. With the redemptive work of Christ in view, Christians are called to, in some way at least, attempt to realize and bring out the goodness of the created world. Genetic modification of food can be a worthy human endeavor within the context of the created purpose of plant life to provide sustenance for human beings. It is interesting to note that many of the groups which oppose genetic modification of food also (rightly) decry the phenomenon of starvation in various parts of the world. As Ronald Bailey notes, "If the activists are successful in their war against green biotech, it's the world's poor who will suffer most. The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that global food production must increase by 40 percent in the next 20 years to meet the goal of a better and more varied diet for a world population of some 8 billion people." The creation needs to be cultivated in such a way as to support and sustain human life. To do so efficiently is prudent, and genetic modification of food, like irrigation channels, plows, and mechanized tractors, is yet another technology that attempts to bring out of the land in some small measure its created bounty. Genetic modification changes nature at a more minute level, but such changes aren't materially different than any of the other various environmental or technological modifications that farmers have been making use of for millennia. Human Genetic Modification There is sometimes a sort of negative visceral reaction to talk about genetic modification of any sort. This is due in large part to the fear of a reprisal of Nazi eugenics or some other sort of gene modification program which goes to the very center of who we are as human beings. It is at this point I would like to make a brief observation regarding the applicability of my above arguments to any form of gene modification of humans, cloning, or stem cell research. To put it bluntly: these arguments aren't applicable. In the above discussion, I've been talking about the earth in general, but plants in particular. Of special note has been the created purpose of plants to provide for the sustenance of beings with the "breath of life." We have briefly touched on the doctrine of the image of God, or the imago Dei. It is this doctrine which I believe invalidates any facile application of arguments for genetic modification of plants to an argument for the genetic modification of humans. Quite simply, human beings, as God's image-bearers, are placed in a position of unique authority over creation, but also bear in themselves inherent dignity which places the worth of human beings as far greater than that of plants, or even animals. This doesn't devalue the rest of creation; but it rightly orders creation with humanity at its head. This inherent value of the human person is what Jesus points to when he states, "you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31 NIV). It must suffice here to say that a well-formed and comprehensive doctrine of the imago Dei precludes the argument from the purpose of plants to be applied in a similar fashion to human beings. This should at least partially assuage some of the fears of those who impulsively reject all arguments in favor of gene modification. Conclusion In the above sections I have briefly sketched out an overview of a biblical-theological framework from which to view the particular arguments in favor of and opposed to genetically modified foods. In general, we can observe that the default position in this regard should not be simply to maintain the status quo of a fallen creation. The ICCR argues on a misuse of the precautionary principle that no genetically modified food should be made available until long-term independent safety testing shows that it is safe for health and the environment. Instead, the default position should be in favor of innovations which have a realistic possibility of substantively increasing the fruitfulness of the earth, and the burden of proof should be to prove that it is unsafe. We have also seen that gene modification has the possibility of working to reverse the effects of the curse in Gen. 3, which should temper the concerns of the Ecumenical Consultative Working Group on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture about "the common good, human dignity, the sacredness of life and stewardship." Concerns in these areas, informed by this theological framework, would in fact lead us to be in favor of gene modification for plants. Does this mean that we should abandon all regulation of any sort and simply allow whatever is new and better to run free until devastating consequences become apparent? Absolutely not. The Fall affects human beings as well as the rest of creation, and even regenerate human beings are fallible and capable of horrible errors. What I'm arguing for instead is a dialogue informed by the theological realities of fallen creaturely existence and by which we can begin to measure some of the claims both for and against genetically modified foods. Only when the reality of the created purpose of food and humankind's role in making plant life fruitful is realized will the pragmatic discussion on genetically modified food be appropriately framed. Jordan Ballor is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality  Ronald Bailey, "Dr. Strangelunch," available at: http://www.abetterearth.org/subcategory.php/194.html  Martin Teitel and Kimberly Wilson, "What the Future Holds," in Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature (Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 2001)  "Faith-Based Conceptual Framework on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture," available at: http://www.ncrlc.com/ge-ag-webpages/ge-ag-forum-statement.html  "Goals and Objectives," available at: http://www.iccr.org/issues/waterfood/goalsobjectives.php  Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, vol. 1, Luther's Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 204.  Cf. Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 204. Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty 161 Ottawa NW, Ste. 301, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Return to Table of Contents ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution? We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders. Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject. 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