World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service


15 August 1989


August, 1989


The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, at its meeting in Moscow in July, 1989, approved. a set of recommendations and proposals concerning biotechnolgy. As the governing body of the WCC, the Central Committee instructed that these recommendations and proposals be sent to its member churches for "study and implementation as appropriate."

This action was taken on the basis of the report titled, "Biotechnology--Its Challenges to the Churches and the World" contained in this publication. This report was prepared by the Subunit on Church and Society of the WCC. A Drafting Committee worked for several months in its preparation, and a first version was sent to 100 experts for advice and comment. A revised version was then prepared for the Central Committee meeting. There, it was considered carefully and further revisions were approved. The final text contained in this publication was then authorized for wide distribution "to encourage and facilitate discussion of these complex matters in the member churches."

The specific set of recommendations and proposals were the subject of special discussion, debate, and proposed amendment by the Central Committee. They were then officially approved.

Thus, this step is an important commitment by the World Council of Churches in attempting to respond to the theological and ethical issues raised by the various dimensions of biotechnology. By this action, the WCC earnestly hopes to stimulate, encourage, and strengthen the engagement of these issues by member churches, related institutions, centres for study and action, as well as other interested groups throughout the world.

This report then calls for ongoing work, both theologically and practically, in response to the challenges raised by biotechnology. Critical theological questions concerning the nature of human life, and the meaning of the "integrity of creation" need concentrated exploration. Pressing developments. promises, and dangers in certain applications of biotechnology need rapid and clear responses. And in the long term, a forceful ethic to guide the ways in which this powerful technology will be utilized is imperative. Hopefully, the actions taken by the World Council of Churches will be useful contributions to these ends.

Emilio Castro
General Secretary

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Director, WCC Subunit on Church & Society


The World Council of Churches, recognising the potential dangers as well as the potential benefits of many forms of biotechnology, encourages its member churches to take appropriate action in their own countries to draw these matters to public attention, and to help governments, scientists, universities, hospitals and corporations to develop suitable safeguards and controls.

In particular it:

a) Calls for the prohibition of genetic testing for sex selection, and warns against the potential use of genetic testing for other forms of involuntary social engineering.
b) Draws attention to ways in which knowledge of an individual's genetic make-up can be, and in some cases, is being abused by becoming the basis for unfair discrimination, for example, in work, health care, insurance and education.
c) Stresses the need for pastoral counselling for individuals faced with difficult reproductive choices as well as personal and family decisions resulting from genetic information concerning themselves or others.
d) Proposes a ban on experiments involving genetic engineering of the human germline at the present time, and encourages the ethical reflection necessary for developing future guidelines in this area: and urges strict control on experiments, involving genetically engineered somatic cells, drawing attention to the potential misuse of both techniques as a means of discrimination against those held to be "defective".
e) Calls for the. banning of commercialized child bearing (i.e. partial and full surrogacy) as well as the crucial sale of ova, embryos or foetal parts and sperm.
f) Advises governments to prohibit embryo research, with any experiments, if agreed, only under well defined conditions;
g) Encourages its member churches and other groups to keep themselves informed on how new developments in reproductive technology affect families, and especially women, and develop a pastoral ministry to counsel people facing these issues, including those who choose, or are pressurized into, utilizing such reproductive techniques.
h) Believes that animal life-forms should not be patented and calls for further study of the profound moral and social implications of patenting life forms.
i) Urges the swift adoption of strict international controls on the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment.
j) Calls on nations throughout the world to cease all use of genetic engineering as part of any biological or chemical warfare research programme, and to reconvene conventions on biological and chemical weapons in order to create new and effective protocols which prohibit their development, production and use.
k) Resolves to initiate consultations between international organisations, non-governmental organisations and scientists, with the churches and others, to reflect on the political evolution of biotechnology and its impact on global justice, and to make proposals for maximizing the benefit to those who are most in need.

(Approved by WCC Central Committee, July 1989)


A. Previous Involvement of the WCC in the Biotechnology Issue

The subject of biotechnology was taken up by the World Council of Churches in 1969 as part of a "Five-Year Ecumenical Inquiry into the Future of Man and Society in a World of Science-Based Technology".1

The focus of this inquiry, organized by the subunit on Church & Society with Paul Abrecht as Director, was on the social responsibility of scientists and of the scientific community in view of what was happening in their various scientific disciplines. Because of the new discoveries in biology these immediately become one of the major concerns.

The issues raised by these discoveries were set out in a paper by Professor Charles Birch.2 After reviewing the general ethical challenge posed by modern science he called attention to "the newer dilemma of biology", and urged that biologists recognize the larger social and human consequences of what they were doing. In June 1970, at the first ecumenical conference of scientists convened by the World Council of Churches, Professor Birch opened a "Debate on Biology" in which he addressed "the implications, particularly in genetics and human behaviour, of the modern revolution in biology." Three other biologists, Professor Warwick Kerr-of Brazil, Professor Agnar Nygaard of Norway, and Professor Nobuaki Sawada of Japan, shared in this debate. It was agreed that the ethical issues posed by the discoveries in genetics required the attention of the churches and plans were made for a follow-up study.

A year later, at a second meeting of scientists and theologians (in Nemi, Italy) it was agreed that one of the projects of the Five Year Inquiry should be "An Examination of a Specific Area of Disturbance in Genetics". To undertake this it was recommended that the WCC establish a panel "consisting primarily of genetists and theologians with due regard for representation of fathers, mothers and children." Professor Bentley Glass, a biologist from the USA, gave leadership in this undertaking. This resulted in the Ecumenical Consultation, (Zurich, 1973) on Genetics and the Quality of Life, chaired by Professor Birch, in which 30 eminent biologists, doctors, ethicists, and theologians examined the ethical issues posed by such technological developments as amniocentesis and other discoveries facilitating genetic therapy. The report of this meeting was presented to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches meeting in 1973 which recommended that the Subunit on Church S Society continue its work in this field.

The book "Genetics and the Quality of Life", was published in 1975. The Fifth WCC Assembly (Nairobi, 1975) agreed that ecumenical work on biotechnology should be continued and broadened. Subsequently the World Conference on Faith, Science and the Future (MIT, 1979) included a Section on "Ethical Issues in the Biological Manipulation of Life". This theme was introduced in a plenary address on "New Genetic Technologies: Prospects and Hazards", by Professor Jonathan King, a research biologist from MIT. The report of this Section provoked further discussion in the churches and in scientific circles, and Professor King himself addressed the WCC Central Committee a year later, to explain the issues posed at the MIT meeting.

In 1981, the Subunit on Church & Society convened a study group to examine the ethical issues raised by the discovery and rapid development on recombinant DNA technology. The report of this meeting, titled Manipulating Life, was published in 1982.3

This document summarizes the entire-debate beginning in 1976 until the early 80's. The last step of this process was a report with recommendations to the WCC Assembly in Vancouver in 1983, under the title "Ethical Criteria for Assessing Specific Technologies", with special concern given to "The Biological Manipulation of Life".

So what are the results of this first discourse on biotechnology within the WCC from 1969 to 1983? The first concern is that the "usual protection for human subjects of research" was guaranteed in genetic experimental therapies.4

As genetic alterations may eventually have an effect on all descendants of an individual and thus on the population as a whole, the second concern involves the questions of eugenic implications of the new techniques.5 Besides this specific attention on human genetics, the work highlighted a general opinion that genetic manipulations amplify and accelerate the tendency towards total reductionism "by first generating knowledge and then converting the human subject into a composite object of interchangeable elements. A threat to the conception of humanness may be as important as any possible adverse physical consequence of the technology."6

Third, following the results of the so-called Asilomar Debate on the risk of recombinant DNA technology, regulatory control was recommended.7 After the patenting of first plants, then microbes in the 70's and early 80's the WCC was requested to "maintain a watching brief on the issues arising from the patenting of micro-organisms."8 Concerning biological warfare, recommendations were made to support the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, the Geneva Protocol of 1925 and to "call on scientists throughout the world not to participate in, any research, associated with the development and production. of chemical and biological weapons:"9

Although throughout the entire process of conferences and drafting of documents there were often sharp differences of outlook on the possibilities and risks of genetic engineering, the 1982 WCC document Manipulating Life states: "There was however unanimous agreement that rapid developments in this field and their siqnificance of human life justify the recommendation that there be a more consistent and systematic monitoring by the WCC and the churches of such scientific work."10 Since that time, however, the WCC did not take any major initiatives in this regard until the preparation of this report, and approval of its recommendations by the Central Committee in July, 1989. A number of member churches, however, have made studies of particular issues.

Now is the time for the churches to monitor the biotechnological process in a consistent and systematic way. Biologists, physicians, pharmacists and bio-engineers have enabled many dramatic developments in recent years, and the public debate has opened up the vast horizon of the new life technologies, which find their way into the intensive care unit as well as into the cattle stable and onto the crop field. The debate on the moral and ethical issues involved must find its way into our churches, for we all will experience the consequences of this technological revolution.

B. Biotechnology - An Overview

Industrialized civilization is opening a new chapter in its history. The revolution of biotechnology now sweeping the world is granting power over the genetic structures of human life. Radically new possibilities controlling human reproduction choices are being conferred upon people. Power over the internal composition and structure of living matter is at hand. Humanity is now developing the tools capable of redesigning the inner fabric of life for biological organisms, including ourselves. The relationship of humanity to the created world is undergoing an historically unprecedented transformation.

In the process, what our civilization discovers, and how it proceeds, will depend upon the conceptual framework which it uses to view the world. What we find, and how we alter the structures of the created world, in other words, will flow from how we perceive the world and ourselves. And the prevailing modern worldview encourages us to look in mistaken ways at life and the whole of creation.

At an important World Council of Churches consultation in Granvollen, Norway, in 1988 on the "Integrity of Creation", the need for reconsidering the limitations of the modern worldview and its understanding of creation was made clear. Its report declared, "we have contributed to the emergence of a consumerist and anthropomorphic worldview which denigrates both matter and the extra-human species."11 In many respects, the scientific perspectives undergirding biotechnology function according to a mechanistic worldview where living organisms are referred to as "self-replicating. molecular machines" that can be snipped, programmed, cloned, .designed, replicated and manipulated at will. Life is thus objectified and can be reduced to assemblages of molecules designed for purely utilitarian and instrumental ends.

"With the industrial mode has come a world-view that looks on creation as manageable and at the disposal of human beings,"12 in the words of the report.. The life of the creation is reduced to the status of "resources" to be mastered, efficiently used, engineered and - when no longer profitable - discarded. "It is a worldview that does not respect humanity's dependence on the earth as mother and as the source of life and nourishment. "13 It often seems that the primary goal within .this worldview is not the welfare of the global biosystem, nor even the welfare of the human species within it, but rather the maximizing of material advantages for those few most able to appropriate and profit from the extraction of the earth's resources.

The revolution in biotechnology comes within this framework of relating to the creation. And this modern way of understanding the world intensifies the perils which developments of biotechnology pose to humanity and all of life.

The human use of biological processes to alter living matter is, of course, not novel. But the modern tools of science allow vast areas of life to be altered through precise targeting, with an enormous developing speed, and for an immense range of potential results. These three qualities both provide the promise which many see in the medical and industrial applications of biotechnology, and also give rise to profound ethical concerns.

A definition may be helpful. Modern biotechnology is an effort to combine the scientific analysis of biological processes with technical ingenuity to cultivate and modify single cells and tissue probes in order to use their metabolic capacities for medical and industrial purposes. Thus, biotechnology concentrates primarily on the genetic details of living matter. By means of biotechnology, humans intervene in "biological systems" not on the basis of energy (burning of wood, coal, oil, etc) or matter (feeding of cattle) but on the basis of information (genetic programming). Biotechnology can be understood in this way as the art of mastering several of the "languages" - especially the genetic and thus universal code - of living matter. Already, the mastering of biological "messenger agents" has led to an enormous increase of human power over living matter, which will continue to escalate.

The words of Francis Bacon become true: knowledge is power. And power always raises ethical concerns. What kinds of productivity will biotechnology be able to achieve? What purpose will it serve: medical, agricultural, environmental, military? And who will benefit?

Some positive benefits of biotechnology already have been demonstrated, and there are high hopes for many more. Those who suffer from diabeties now have insulin available at lower cost. Some couples who have suffered the pain of childlessness now have been given a child through new reproductive techniques. Soil contaminated by oil has been treated by enriching and utilizing naturally occurring bacteria which metabolize petroleum.

The pharmaceutical industry, up to now, leads in manufacturing products on the basis of genetic engineering and other biotechnics, mostly for First World markets. Some of these pharmaceuticals are:




First time on the market

Hepatitis B vaccine
Growth hormone
Tissue plasmiogen activator

Hepatitis B
Stunted growth
Heart attack
Blood deficiency

Animal tissue
Animal Tissue


Without biotechnology some of these pharmaceuticals could not be produced in sufficient quantities or only for a very small minority. Biotechnology in this respect provides important tools for diagnostics and therapy, which otherwise would not be at hand. Especially, those products which traditionally had to be harvested from human blood plasma and sometimes could be infected, now can be produced without any risk of infections. The therapeutic value of these drugs is great and, given that the procedures are safe and the products are carefully tested, further ways to discover and produce other now still rare pharmaceuticals using biotechnology can be anticipated.

Awareness and concern over biotechnology, however, normally is raised first around its possible consequences for human reproduction, and the power to determine genetic characteristics of people. These implications indeed are profound, confronting humanity with the necessity for making fundamental decisions regarding the image of an "improved" biological composition of the human being, and demanding how far, and in what way, human power should be utilized to determine the genetic composition of human life. The attempts collectively to enforce such ideas in history are known as eugenics, and generally have been condemned on the grounds that human beings ought not to have such power over each other. As the tools for such goals now become more refined and subtle, humanity might be tempted to be less critical of the potential dangers posed by eugenics. But decisions regarding genetic characteristics are of the most intimate nature, and deeply affect our personhood. They must never be determined by commercial or political pressures.

The impact of this technology is not at all limited to human life. The full consequences of the new biotechnologies on health care, crop production and such seemingly remote industries as mining, energy and construction are difficult to measure. However, no technological revolution in human history has ever come faster. If the promises of some scientists and promoters of biotechnology are realistic, then enormous consequences for our social and economic well-being must be faced. Economic power will shift from smokestack technologies to laboratories.

For the world's poor, the impact will be far greater than for society, in general. Biological products and processes (food, shelter, fuel, clothing, medicines, etc) are basic needs. For poor people, biology (and, therefore, biotechnology) relates directly to most of their economic activity.

It is an axiom of poverty that any sudden change is dangerous. Despite the potential for the new biotechniques to alleviate suffering, improve nutrition and promote environmental quality, both the history of technological innovations and the current trends with this particular technology warn us that the transition may prove powerfully negative.

For the churches, these realities underscore the need to challenge the basic framework and worldview which provides the impetus to the contemporary medical, industrial, and military applications of biotechnology. As the "Integrity of Creation" report said, "the church must engage with technology at its source and not merely at its consequences. This is costly and difficult work. Technology is .not neutral or value free: it is as much an ideology as it is a tool of science. It has in fact become 'an instrument of power and is itself trapped in vast networks of power which are complex, systemic, often multinational, and exists primarily to maximize profit. In New Testament terms, "principalities and powers" have gripped our world. which means our struggle with the misuse of science and technology is essentially a religious one."14

As churches, we must never make a simplistic equation between the work of science and the domain of such principalities and powers. Yet, we also recognize that science does not function in an isolated vacuum, but rather, is subject to wider perceptions and influences, which express loyalty to certain networks of power.

On the one hand, the church affirms a faith in God's work as the sustainer of creation, which includes the truth that God is still Lord even over such principalities and powers, who, to some extent, cannot but serve God. On the other hand, the churches' attitude toward these forces and structures is one of fundamental critique. The basis for such criticism, opposition, or cooperation comes from the biblical revelation of God's purposes for justice, peace, and integrity in the creation.

In truth, the .views of the world and reality which characterize modern societies are reflected as well within our churches. Some Christian theology as well as the common attitudes of many church members reflect a way of thinking toward the created world which often has justified its destruction. As the Integrity of Creation document explained, "the universal industrial mind-set must be seen in relation to the growth in Western culture of a philosophy of dualism, which affirms a radical divide between spirit and matter, soul and body, male and female. Over the centuries, this dualistic philosophy has played a significant role in many Christian theologies, resulting in a belief in a hierarchy of values or in a theory of a chain-of-being that absolutizes human-centered and male-centered creation. The hierarchical view of creation puts women and the rest of creation in a position of powerlessness - to be owned, exploited and violated. Many churches and Christians also subscribe to this worldview and uncritically support the economic and political forces which reinforce it."15

The revolution in biotechnology challenges the churches to engage in critical theological work. The glory of God in the creation must be freshly understood, enriched by the perception of scientists in the knowledge -of creation. Contemporary expressions of the sin of idolatry, present in various possibilities created by biotechnology, must be grasped with clarity: Humanity's vocation in relationship to the natural world requires a more perceptive biblical and theological understanding in the light of powers inherent in biotechnology. And the intricate biological inter-connectedness between humans and the rest of creation invites theological and ethical reflection.

Therefore, the advent of biotechnology calls the churches to re-examine the fundamental Christian understandings of the relationship between God, humanity, and the created world. That task has just begun. In the process, the fresh resources of biblical witness, and the declaration of the churches' ancient creeds, all beginning with faith'in God as the Creator, and Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, must be reaffirmed, to give a foundation for addressing these challenges.



1) Dietrich is now a student of chemical engineering. A few years from now, he will look for a research job with a chemical manufacturer in the city in which he lives. Shortly after his being hired, Dietrich may be called into his superior's office and informed that during the routine genetic screening process which is part of his medical check-up, a genetic trait had been found which pre-disposes him to certain forms of cancer. Frightened of legal liability should Dietrich's employment result in his contracting this disease, his employer will switch Dietrich to a lower paying administrative position in another city. Although Dietrich 'may be unwilling to take this non-research lower paying job, he may be told that due to his genetic make-up no chemical company will give him a research position. Dietrich is forced to accept the non-research job.

2) Francois and Marie have just been married. Five years from now, after the birth of their second child, they-may decide to take out life insurance policies to benefit each other and the children in case of an accident. Each is healthy .and anticipates no problem. They will be shocked when they receive notice that the insurer has refused Francois' application due to the fact that his genetic screening reveals an abnormal gene, associated with a disease causing serious deterioration of the circulatory system. Francois then will be uninsured and living in fear that he will contract the circulatory, disorder to which he has the predisposition. The insurance company routinely uses sophisticated genetic screening technology to limit its liability.

3) In Bombay, India, Sashikala was pregnant again. She already had two daughters: Her husband and all his family repeatedly told her that she could not bear one more daughter - a son was essential to carry on the family line and to perform religious rituals that only a son could perform. Another girl child would mean another burden on the family. She just had to have an amniocentesis test done to determine the sex of the child she carried. Sashikala was very afraid: she had heard of the possible dangers that such a test poses to her and her unborn child. But she had no choice and finally succumbed to the pressures on her to have the test done. It was a female foetus - it had to be aborted!

4) Naima and her husband had tried for many years to have-a child. Naima was delighted when she was informed that she finally had become pregnant. However, soon afterwards a genetic counsellor representing a government health agency met with Naima and informed her that the mandatory genetic screening of her infant had revealed a predisposition to sickle cell anemia. The counsellor also told Naima that the state had an aggressive policy of discouraging the birth of children with this disease, in order to slowly rid the country of it. Naima at first refused to abort the child, but after a few weeks of repeated calls from health officials she finally agreed to have an abortion. Naima and her husband remain childless.

I. a. Genetic Analysis

Up until recently, analysis of human genetic traits relied on observation of physical characteristics. During the first half of the twentieth century, biologists discovered that the chromosomes are the carriers of genetic traits, although the inner structure of the chromosome was not yet known. Over the last several decades molecular biology has. been revolutionized by the discovery of the location of genes on chromosomes and of DNA as the primary genetic substance.

These recent advances in genetics are allowing for the more precise detection of specific genes responsible for genetic diseases in cells and organs. Currently, approximately 200 genetic abnormalities which cause disease have been more or less located, like sickle cell anemia, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.

Many countries are engaged in an ambitious and much debated project to map on the chromosomes all the genes in the human body. In February 1988, the United States of America's National Academy of Sciences (NAS) endorsed a controversial three-billion dollar, twenty-year programme to accomplish this analysis. Recently, Japan, Germany, the Soviet Union and the European Community also announced their intention to. spend tens of millions of dollars each in the quest to map all human genes.

A major focus of present individual analysis is to identify genes which cause subseptibility to a variety of diseases and sensitivities to environmental hazards, including pre-dispositions to certain human diseases and various forms of human behaviour. Genetic analysis can also help to identify each, individual and family relationships between individuals, and has recently been used as a form of finger-printing in the detection of crime:

Advances in genetic analysis are being applied in several ways. One of the main areas of application is in pre-natal genetic diagnosis. It is used primarily by families that have a known risk of hereditary defects, and by women of 35 years or over who are generally believed to have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with a genetic disorder. Also, some people just have a general fear, or are looking for specific information such as the child's sex. About 3% of all foetuses tested show the symptoms of a severe genetic disease. Confronted with the results of the diagnosis, pregnant women, in a few cases, have the options of therapeutic or preventive measures, or in most cases, the birth of a handicapped child or abortion. Genetic counseling can be a key element in the decision-making process.

The growth of such diagnostic methods, as well as other pressures, along with the social situation of handicapped children and their parents, can lead many women to feel guilty if they to not use such procedures. Yet, the fact is that about 95% of all "handicaps" are not genetic in origin, so the even the most effective screening would not eliminate them. But as many handicapped persons and their organizations point out, the consequence of widespread genetic screening could be less emphasis on therapy, care, and support, with more discrimination. The danger lies in subtle assumptions that could hold parents responsible for handicapped persons posing a "burden" to society that supposedly could have been prevented.

Post-natal diagnosis is used to detect genetic disorders in new-borns or adults. In a variety of cases, adults will be confronted not only by the effects of the disease itself but by the information about it long before the first symptoms appear.

Some of the more controversial applications involve genetic screening. In many countries governments have initiated screening programmes primarily for health concerns for two reasons. One is to avoid the birth of further affected offspring, and the other is to provide early indications in new-born babies of diseases that can be treated. Industries and insurance companies have initiated screening programmes to identify individuals who might be "occupational or insurance risks".

A major concern about genetic diagnosis is that increased genetic understanding could be used to create a new discrimination based on genetic make-up. Decisions from conception and birth to job choices and insurance availability could be decided on the basis of an individual's genetic traits.

Prenatal diagnosis gives rise to special social and ethical concerns. They center about the eugenic judgments on what genetic abnormality, if any, justifies the abortion of a given foetus. Some feel that several genetic diseases can ethically justify the abortion of a child, while others disagree. More disturbing than the controversy over severe genetic defects are the clear indications from around the world that pre-natal screening is being used for sex selection. In many countries throughout the world, male children are preferred over female children. Recent studies in Bombay, India, indicated that of 7,000 abortions in one city hospital all but one were female. In the United States of America substantially more female foetuses than males are aborted. In 1986, concern over sex selection in South Korea became so severe that the government banned pre-natal tests.

In state-sponsored pre-natal testing, the major concern is whether the state may be openly, or covertly encouraging the abortion of genetically abnormal foetuses. Social concern over any mandatory testing centers on: the right to privacy of individuals who do -not wish to be tested. Governments may attempt to balance this right by asserting public health concerns and the possibility for early treatment of the affected foetus.

Another essential question is whether governments, employers, insurance companies, or educational institutions should have access to each individual's genetic make-up. A current controversy involves genetic screening in the work-place. In 1983, a United States study found that 18 major corporations did some genetic screening of their employees. Of the 18, only 8 of the companies made the results available to those tested. A major fear is that employers could try to select the "proper" worker for a dangerous work-place rather than adapt the work-place to the health-needs of the worker.

Another concern is the possibility of insurance companies refusing, or charging exorbitantly high rates, to cover those people that are determined to be carriers of a genetic disorder.

As advances in genetic sciences proceed it must be kept in-mind that the more complex the genetic basis of a human condition or property is, the more arbitrary the interpretation of the genetic data will be. "Scientific expertise" could become a tool for discrimination, intimidation and manipulation. Eugenic concepts in the first half of this century, designed by people who claimed to be able to define the "biological quality" of human life, show how powerful movements pressing for the improvement or protection of the "gene pool" might become.


Because of the profound social and ethical implications of advances in genetic diagnostics aid screening, the following recommendations have been approved:

The World Council of Churches calls for the prohibition of genetic testing for sex selection, and warns against the potential use of genetic testing for other forms of involuntary social engineering.

The World Council of Churches draws attention to ways in which knowledge of an individual's genetic make-up can be, and in some cases, is being abused by becoming the basis for unfair discrimination, for example, in work, health care, insurance and education.

The World Council of Churches stresses the need for pastoral counselling for individuals faced with difficult reproductive choices as well as personal and family decisions resulting from genetic information concerning themselves or others.

I.b. Genetic Therapy

The basic concept underlying genetic therapy is the replacement of "defective" genes with those that are well functioning. Somatic therapy seeks to alter or add. to the body cells of the individual. It does not involve reproductive cells, so these gene alterations are not passed on to future generations.

For example, in some individuals, bone marrow does not produce sufficient blood cells. Somatic gene therapy would attempt to replace the defective bone marrow cells with well functioning ones. This involves a complex process. Defective cells have to be extracted surgically, and those not extracted would have to be destroyed by radiation and replaced by genetically manipulated cells with the hope that enough repaired bone marrow cells settle where defective tissue was before.

To achieve successful somatic gene therapy in general, these major problems will have to be solved: 1) More knowledge will have to be gained on how various genes function. Once isolated and understood, large quantities of well functioning genes will have to be produced. 2) No method yet exists which allows for the integration and proliferation of complex genetic traits into humans. 3) Safe and efficient vectors, which would carry the well functioning gene into the human system, and can be precisely targeted to certain organs or somatic locations, are not yet available.

Currently, several experiments have been proposed, and one is underway, which attempt to alter the genes of individuals suffering from various genetic diseases. These experiments- seek to alter or add to the body cells of the individual and do not affect the reproductive cells. At present, there is an ongoing experiment in the United States where a gene which "marks" for cancer resistance is being engineered into ten terminally ill cancer patients. This experiment is unlikely to be of any benefit to the patients, but may help researchers better understand various factors in cancer therapy.

Because somatic gene therapy is in some ways similar to other forms of experimental therapy, it brings up several basic concerns. First, somatic therapy should be undertaken only when no other therapy is available. Second, human subjects of this research should be fully informed of the nature and consequences of the somatic alteration procedure. Informed consent may be difficult because the full effects of somatic cell therapy are unknown. Beyond the basic concerns about somatic cell therapy are larger questions about the potential discriminatory and eugenic use of this technology.

New advances in the understanding of how genes relate to human disease and behaviour are leading to the possibility of the genetic engineering of the human germline. As distinct from somatic body cells, germline cells are those cells responsible for reproduction. Therefore, genetic alteration of germline cells affects not only the individual being altered, but also all that individual's descendants, in perpetuity. First trials of germline alteration already have been made on a variety of non-human species from microbes to mammals. Scientists have been successful in transferring genes, but not in predicting or understanding how new genetic traits transform an organism.

As with somatic gene therapy, the aim of the genetic alteration of the human germline will be to eradicate various genetic disorders. However, this otherwise beneficial aim is seriously clouded by several scientific problems. Because the altering of a human's germline is a permanent decision for that person and his or her descendants, no such alteration should be made until sufficient information on the full consequences of the alteration is available. Such knowledge would have to be predictive, judging the impact of germline alteration over many generations. Science is at this point wholly unable to supply such information. For example, a genetic trait which can create a disorder in one environment can carry positive benefits in another setting (such as sickle cell anemia carrying with it immunity to malaria).

As with genetic analysis and screening, the social and ethical concerns about any genetic alterations focus on the discriminatory and eugenic use of this technology. Essential to this concern is what is, and what is not, a "defective gene". While there is little disagreement about several genetic diseases, many concepts of a "defective gene" will be tainted by the cultural and social prejudices of any given society.

As noted by the WCC 1982 report Manipulating Life, "The history of eugenic movements, from Plato to the present day, shows many examples of individuals and groups, including scientific leaders and often so-called experts, who institutionalized their prejudices of race, sex and class through programmes that caused tragic harm. 16 In short, alteration of the human genes could become the ultimate tool of discrimination and eugenics.

Germline genetic engineering involves either the germ cells or the embryo stage to be effective. This brings up essential questions about the ethics of embryo research. In light of present scientific knowledge, evaluating ;any human germline manipulations would necessitate experimentation on human embryos on a large, scale, and their subsequent destruction. This use of human embryos solely for experimental rather than therapeutic purposes raises. for many people a most serious conflict with moral and ethical standards, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. (See discussion below on "embryo research" in REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES .)


Given the profound scientific, social, and ethical problems created by any germ-line genetic engineering of humans, the following recommendation has been approved:

The World Council of Churches proposes a ban on experiments involving genetic engineering of the human germline at the present time, and encourages the ethical reflection necessary for developing future guidelines in this area: and urges strict control on experiments involving genetically engineered somatic cells, drawing attention to the potential misuse of both techniques as a means of discrimination against those held to be "defective".



1) Allejandra lived in a small village in Mexico. When she was 21, her second cousins in the United States had her enter the country illegally for the purpose of producing a child for them. The Santiagos were childless, though Mrs Santiago had a child by an earlier marriage. Mr Santiago wanted a child of his own.

At the time of her illegal entry, Allejandra had no formal education and no knowledge of the English language. In the United States, Allejandra was artificially inseminated with ,Mr Santiago's sperm. Soon after she became pregnant, she was made to sign a contract with the Santiagos. The contract signed away all her parental rights for 1,500 US dollars.

Allejandra lived with the couple during the pregnancy but was not allowed to leave the house because Mrs. Santiago intended to claim the child as her own. Allejandra gave birth to a daughter. The Santiagos signed the birth certificate and took the child home. Allejandra was threatened with deportation if she tried to gain custody of her daughter.

Despite these threats, Allejandra went to court to attempt to regain custody. The court granted Allejandra visitation rights: with her daughter. She has currently been fighting deportation.

2) Denise was single, childless and impoverished, living in government subsidized housing, working for low wages. Lured by a .10,000 dollar fee she signed a surrogate agreement to bear the child of a couple in Michigan, USA. She was inseminated several times and-after the use of several high power fertility drugs, became pregnant.

Several years before, Denise had developed an abnormality of the heart. The broker who arranged Denise's contract told Denise not to worry about the heart problem. A doctor paid by the broker also told Denise her heart was fine. Denise died of heart failure, alone in her apartment, in her eighth month of pregnancy. The foetus, a five-pound-twelve-ounce boy she intended to name Jackie, died also.

3) Jose was a college student. He came from a poor family and paying tuition was very difficult. A clinic advertized at the university that it would pay sperm donors who became involved in the clinic's artificial insemination programme. José passed the clinic's various tests to become a donor. He sold his sperm several times. 'Now, several years later, José constantly wonders about the offspring of his sperm. He feels both guilt and responsibility for the children created with his sperm. He is currently attempting to find out from the clinic where and who these children are.

4) Myung-hi is a single parent struggling financially. A clinic in her neighbourhood advertized for ovum donors. The fee paid to women who donated their eggs was 1,000 US dollars. Myung-hi allowed her ovum to be extracted several times. The last time created an infection which required hospitalization, using up most of the money Myung-hi had gained through selling her ovum. Myung-hi now wonders about the children created with her ovum.

We are presently experiencing a dramatic revolution in the field of reproductive technology. Reproductive technologies may be defined as the full range of biomedical/technical interferences during the process of procreation, whether aimed at producing a child or preventing/ terminating a pregnancy. Old technologies include mechanical contraception (such as the IUD and the diaphragm) and. various forms of hormonal contraception (such as the pill and Depo Provera). The old technologies also include male and female sterilization, abortion, and mechanical interferences at birth such as Caesarean section.

New reproductive technologies encompass pre-conception sex selection and post conception sex determination techniques, artificial insemination, drug treatments, and the full gamut of "test-tube" techniques: in vitro fertilization, embryo replacement, transfer and flushing, embryo freezing, and yet to come - cloning and artificial placenta: the "glass womb". They also comprise techniques such as surrogate motherhood and artificial insemination, by spouse or by donor.

Many of these tests and procedures have been developed to correct or circumvent the problem of infertility. However, this influx of biological information and expertise carries profound medical, social, and ethical implications. The accelerating development of these sophisticated technologies has out-distanced the ability of societies to prepare adequately for their introduction. Legislatures, courts, and citizens in many countries find themselves spectators rather than participants in the development of reproductive technologies. The benefits of reproductive technologies are well-advertized, yet the troubling questions of their impact on women and their families have yet to be explored sufficiently.

Technologies designed to treat male infertility tend to be relatively non-invasive procedures. The main technology used to circumvent male infertility is artificial insemination. There are two types of: artificial insemination, one in which the sperm belongs to the husband (AIH) and the one in which the sperm belongs to the donor (AID). Artificial insemination is a technologically simple procedure in which a sperm sample is taken from a man. The sample is washed, often concentrated, and then injected into a woman. Because the procedure itself is relatively simple, it can be, and often is, done without the help of a physician. Artificial insemination is used frequently in conjunction with other reproductive technologies. AIH has been widely regarded by the churches as morally permissible. AID has been questioned on the grounds that it confuses genetic identity and compromises the sanctity of marriage.

The procedures developed to treat female infertility are technologically more problematic than those used to treat men. One of the main tools of modern reproductive technology is the fertilization procedure known as in vitro fertilization. "In vitro" means in glass; thus in vitro fertilization takes place in a glass dish outside the woman's body. The term test-tube baby is often used to describe in vitro fertilization (IVF). Doctors suggest the use of IVF in cases in which a woman has a healthy uterus but is unable to conceive naturally, e.g. she has blocked fallopian tubes and the sperm is unable to reach the egg.

IVF is a multi-step procedure which warrants explanation. The first step is treatment with a fertility drug known as clomid. Clomid causes a woman's ovaries to produce several eggs rather than just one. Once the eggs are fully developed and the woman is about to ovulate, the doctor retrieves the eggs surgically. The retrieval is an extremely difficult procedure and may be done in two ways. The doctor may enter through the abdominal wall or through the vaginal canal: the ovary is punctured and the eggs are removed. After the eggs have been removed, they are placed in a glass dish and then mixed with the sperm. The solution is left for forty-eight hours and at that point any fertilized eggs, embryos, are at the eight cell stage. The doctor reinserts between three and six embryos into the woman's uterus and with proper timing one of the embryos will imbed itself in the uterine wall and a pregnancy will begin. In order for implantation to occur, the woman must be hormonally ready for an embryo so she is given estrogen and progesterone that "trick" her body into thinking it is pregnant. The entire procedure requires a great deal of planning and, in Western societies, the cost is approximately 15,000 to 25,000 US dollars.

The birth rates for women using IVF are under 7%. There have not been long term studies on the overall health consequences due to these procedures, although there are indications of higher risks for ovarian cysts, hormonal disorders, and other problems. At least six women have died in the course of IVF. Studies on the short and long term psychological and emotional effects have been undertaken by only a few researchers. They show that failed IVF treatments, which are over 93% of the cases worldwide, may greatly aggravate the emotional and social problems associated with childlessness for the women involved.

IVF, along with other new methods of reproductive technology, have been understood as a way bf ending the pain of infertility. It a few cases, it succeeds in this goal. But the unfortunate and often overlooked fact is that for the majority of those women treated, IVF tends to increase emotional and physical pain, rather than successfully alleviating the problem of, childlessness.

Another potential procedure is embryo transfer, in which an embryo is flushed from the uterus of one woman and placed into the womb of another. This sort of procedure requires an hormonal control and coordination between the two women. Embryo flush and transfer has not -developed to the stage of IVF and is not widely used by the general public. Embryo freezing is a technique used to preserve the embryo, created in vitro, for implantation at a future time.

Foetal testing includes pre-natal genetic testing for "abnormalities" or disease, and sex-determination often accompanied by gender selection. Foetal testing takes on several models depending on the needs of those involved (see above).

An entirely different sort of reproductive technology is known as surrogacy. In this procedure a couple decides to engage the services of an outside party, a woman to carry their child. There are two types of surrogacy, partial and full. In partial surrogacy, the man provides a sperm sample and the woman, not his wife, is artificially inseminated with his sperm. The woman carries the foetus to term and upon delivery gives the child up to the sperm donor and his wife. In full surrogacy the woman is implanted with a fertilized embryo of another couple and carries that child to term. In both types of surrogacy the birth mother is usually subject to any number of medical procedures from the use of clomid and other hormones to genetic testing of the foetus with possible abortion on demand of the sperm donor.

Reproductive Technology - Impact on Women

Some people have found great fulfillment through the use of reproductive technologies and the birth of a longed-for child. Others see these technologies as -having a particularly deleterious .effect on women, and as directed against their reproductive rights. On this view, science and technology have acquired such power in this century, that along with the rest of creation that has been "mastered" for profit, women's bodies have become one more "colony" to be appropriated and exploited. While on the one end of the spectrum, genetic technology has concerned itself with fertility control - with preventing conception, frustrating implantation of an embryo or terminating pregnancy - on the other end, it has directed itself to the promotion of pregnancy through mechanics that overcome or bypass infertility - in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination by donor, etc. It has also concerned itself with the "management" of labour and childbirth and has developed the most elaborate mechanisms for monitoring foetal development in the early stages of pregnancy, mechanisms which might ultimately enable the modification of in-born "defects" through human genetic engineering.

Some women feel that the economic, political, social and cultural climate of societies plays a. critical role in the manipulation of women's reproductive rights. Further, people often speak of the "environment of the foetus", or of "test-tube babies", or of "surrogate motherhood", or of "artificial insemination", a$ if the; woman and her womb and body are not involved at all.

As has been noted, some reproductive technologies designed to meet women's felt need for children, such as IVF, may result in further suffering by most women involved. This has led some people to suspect that there are other factors motivating technologies like IVF, including a fascination with the manipulation and control of reproduction, the, pressure to expand genetic diagnostics with potentially eugenic decisions as a result, and the development of IVF embryos as research tools.

The most exploitive aspects of reproductive technology occur when a woman is provided monetary payment for her reproductive "services", be it the sale of her ovum; foetus, or childbearing in partial or full surrogacy. In these instances women become merely expendable commodities in the market-place that has appropriated human reproduction.


Economic pressure is not alone in inducing women to subject themselves to reproductive technologies. Social pressure also plays a significant role. These technologies stress conformity to stereotypical concepts of womanhood, heterosexuality, marriage and motherhood. They promote an ideology of "motherhood" as a natural, desired and ultimate goal of all "normal" women. The stress on genetic parenthood, leading to use of techniques such as vitro fertilization, may in some instances be more related to the preoccupation with inheritance, succession and paternity than with concern for a woman's desire for childbirth. With the changing patterns of family life, "blood ties" no longer symbolize permanence in human relationships. Practices such as artificial insemination by the donor, egg donation or surrogacy, question the notion that genetic parenthood guarantees familial relationships. And with the increasing trend in independent or autonomous motherhood, some women have sought how to combine their commitment to bearing and raising children with patterns of living less restrictive than those of the conventional family. The desire of an infertile couple to "have a child of their own" through the use of reproductive technologies rather than to adopt a child can have a variety of motives: In some situations and societies, the legal and political constructions placed on genetic ties, rather than the bonding between a man and a woman that comes with parenthood, are the main factors. In such situations the church can play an important pastoral role through helping couples discuss the most important motives for child-bearing, and resist other pressures which might produce guilt and harm in response to childlessness.

Another set of questions arise from conceptive technologies which separate parenthood from the sexual act. These, of course, can pose challenges to traditional understandings of the family in many cultures and societies, and , raise significant theological questions as well.

These technologies also create possibilities for the further exploitation of the most marginalized women the world over. It cannot be ignored that if experiments with embryos or even "surrogate" motherhood are banned by law in the First World, their use may simply be moved to the Third World where women may be used as guinea pigs. Women are recognizing that they have to understand not only the changing balance of social and economic forces, but also how science and technology have developed and are likely to develop in the future.

Embryo Research

Should we do important therapeutic research on an embryo which is not done for the benefit of the embryo itself and which even causes the destruction of the embryo? This problem raises enormously difficult, questions about the status of the human embryo as a potential human being. Several biological processes have.been proposed to define the beginning of personal human life: the moment of fertilization, the last moment of spontaneous twin development, the first appearance of nervous tissue and so forth.

An additional approach to the human embryo concentrates on the relationships within which it exists. In the case of embryos potentially used for research, there are the mother and father, the researchers, those patients for whom the embryo stands as a scientific model, and the representatives of legal authorities, who have to decide whether such a case requires protection of human life and dignity. And the neglect of the emotional relationship of the mother to the growing life already is a reductionist approach that fails to acknowledge the richness as well as the fragility of a relationship that still is in a tenuous state.

If we decide to perceive the human embryo not as a potential member of the human community but rather to be human biomass, then we are free to experiment on it without hesitation. If we concede that the potential of the human embryo to grow to one or even more individual persons requires our respect, then we are obligated only to experiment on it, if at all, for grave reasons. The difficulty lies in deciding what is or is not a sufficiently grave reason. Known severe hereditary diseases might be such a reason, as might research on potentially fatal diseases. Some would doubt whether further research on improving IVF morally justifies the experimental use of embryos. Others point to the known failure rate of IVF as a justification for further research.

The basic theological question is if and how we recognize our neighbour in the living organism that evolves out of the merging of human sperm and ovum. Following the principle of suspecting at least the potential for human development and therefore expanding protection rather than diminishing it, one may consider how the present standards of research on human beings could be adapted to the question of embryo research. According to a declaration of the World Medical Association, dangerous and non-therapeutic research on human beings is allowed only for experimenting on one's self. This is impossible for embryos as well as it is for children. So any form of non-therapeutic research on human embryos also would be an exception to this standard.

The present main positions adopted within the Christian community on embryo research are a total ban on one hand, and a general prohibition with specific exceptions on the other. Conditions for exceptions are high, including therapeutic purposes, sufficient research on animals in advance, and restrictions on well-defined time spans.


In light of the real and growing threats posed by reproductive technologies to the integrity and dignity of women and men, and in view of the ethical and pastoral issues which these technologies raise, the following recommendations have been approved:

The World Council of Churches calls for the banning of commercialized child bearing (i.e. partial and full surrogacy) as well as the, commercial sale of ova. embryos or foetal parts and sperm.

The World Council of Churches advises governments to prohibit embryo research, with any experiments; if agreed, only, under well defined conditions.

The World Council of Churches encourages its member churches and other groups to keep themselves informed on how new developments in reproductive technology affect families, and especially women, and develop a pastoral ministry to counsel people facing these issues,. including those who choose, or are pressurized into, utilizing such reproductive techniques.


The Patenting of Life

The use of biotechnology in agriculture and industry creates profound and difficult concerns. Scientists are crossing species boundaries at an ever increasing rate, inserting human genes into animals, and animal genes into other animals and plants. Many recent achievements sound more like science fiction than science fact. For example, scientists have taken the gene that emits light in a firefly and inserted it into the permanent genetic make-up of a tobacco plant: the tobacco leaves light up 24 hours a day. Researchers have inserted human growth hormone genes into the genetic code of rats and pigs; the rats grow twice as fast and twice as big as normal. Scientists have fused sheep and goat cells, creating the geep, a half-sheep, half-goat chimera. Other research strategies are aimed at more economically profitable developments. Herbicide resistant plants, and plants which shall have the capacity to absorb nitrogen not only through the soil, but also directly from the atmosphere, are examples. Researchers also have inserted chicken and bovine genes into the germline of salmon creating what they term "Superfish".

These techniques go far beyond any traditional breeding of animal or plant species. Scientists and corporations are mixing and matching the genetic material of different parts of the whole biotic community, from micro-organisms through mammals, in order to obtain useful and profitable "products". In order to obtain a better return on the substantial capital investment required to create these "new" genetically engineered life forms, corporations and research institutions have been seeking patent protection for their biotechnology creations.

In 19--,the United States Supreme Court granted a patent on a genetically engineered micro-organism, and in 1985 US patent protection was extended to genetically engineered plants. Finally, in 198?, the US patent ,office ruled that genetically engineered animals, from insects to primates, were subject to potential patent ownership. The European Patent Office has allowed the patenting of microbes but has, up to the present, not yet allowed the patenting of plants or animals. However, in February 1989, the European Economic Community recommended that patent protection be extended to genetically engineered plants and animals.

The 1982 WCC report Manipulating Life noted several "causes for concern" about the patenting of micro-organisms. These included questions as to whether patenting microbes might lead to economic injustice as major corporations gained control of the biotechnology industry. The report was also concerned that patenting genetically engineered microbes might lead to a restriction in the range of genetic research as researchers abandon areas of research that offer little patenting and commercial potential. In the last several years, as the patenting of plants and animals has been initiated, the economic consequences and impacts of patenting addressed in the 1982 WCC report have become even more apparent. Additionally, the patenting of plants and animals raises complex and troublesome ethical, economic, and environmental questions not fully anticipated in earlier years.

Economic Impact

The patenting of life forms will affect numerous sectors of the economy. A dramatic impact will be felt by the agricultural community. As patenting further concentrates agricultural biotechnology in the hands of the multinational corporations, farmers could be forced to pay patent fees to corporations every time they reproduce a patented plant or animal. Many small farmers could be forced out of business. As genetic engineering develops, patenting could place a few large companies in position to take over animal husbandry just as they have seed production.

Patenting will also affect researchers. Research in biotechnology, compared to other research efforts, is highly dependent upon funding from the private sector. The commercial potential of patenting genetically engineered research animals is leading to a curtailment of communication and sharing of resources in the scientific community. Additionally, privately funded researchers are shifting research from areas where patent potential is small to areas where commercial exploitation is more available. Finally, researchers who are not heavily capitalized may be unable to pay the patent fees on genetically engineered research animals and could be forced out of important research.

It is clear, of course, that patents are not the only mechanism for maintaining protection of intellectual property. One alternative would be complete research secrecy. The controversy over the patenting of genetically engineered life forms and engineering procedures ultimately raises the challenge of reviewing the concept and protection of "intellectual property."

Perhaps the greatest concern in the patenting of life is that the lure of patenting can cause a misappropriation of Third World genetic resources by corporations looking for patentable genetic products. Since a significant amount of useful genetic material is found in the tropical and subtropical countries, First World patenting of life could increasingly exploit the collective resources and germplasm of Third World countries and peoples. However, the responsible sharing of information and benefits already happens in many -instances; there is a strong need to establish and maintain a fair system of exchange in all such practices:

Environmental Impact

Patenting encourages the development and creation of genetically altered micro-organisms, plants and animals. In order to prove the effectiveness of these new "products", corporations will be under pressure to release them into the environment. Remarkably, there are few regulations in the international community on the deliberate release of genetically engineered organisms. Yet the introduction of the genetically engineered organisms into the environment could cause ecological catastrophe, as with the introduction of other exotics into new environments (see ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS).

Ethical and Theological Impacts

The patenting of life encodes into law a reductionist conception of life which seeks to remove any distinction between living and non-living things. This view was recently expressed in an internationally read newspaper supporting patenting of life. The editorial stated that "Life is special, and humans even more so, but biological machines are still machines which can be altered, cloned, and patented." This mechanistic view directly contradicts the sacramental, interrelated view of life intrinsic to a theology of the integrity of creation. As expressed by Arie Brouwer, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of the USA, "Reverence for all life ... may be eroded by subtle economic pressures to view life as if it were an industrial product invented and manufactured by humans... The gift of life from God, in all its forms and species, should not be regarded solely as if it were a chemical product subject to genetic alteration and patentable for economic benefit." The churches should question all those technologies, whether traditional or modern, whose only stance toward creation is one of exploitation and-profit, ignoring the biblical call to "tend the garden and keep it."

As noted, patenting has been put in place to encourage the genetic engineering of life and the creation of new genetically engineered "manufactures". Yet, especially in animals, cross-species genetic transfers can cause extraordinary suffering and may be regarded as a prime offense to the dignity and integrity of the biotic community. For example, the injection of human growth genes into the germline of pigs, causes the pigs to become deformed, arthritic, partially blind and more subject to infection by disease. Far from being encouraged without limits, cross species genetic transfers should be tightly regulated: for prolonged, unregulated, and expanded use of cross-species genetic engineering could have incalculable effects on the natural world as we currently know it.

For these reasons, many groups throughout the world have proposed moratoriums on the patenting of life forms. These moratoriums could be used to study several issues related to the patenting of life including: a) First World control of Third World genetic resources by corporations looking for patentable genetic products: b) patenting encoding a reductionist conception of life by removing the distinction between living and non-living things: c) patenting creating the loss of genetic diversity: d) animal patenting creating the profit incentive for cross-species genetic transfers which leads to great animal suffering: e) patenting threatening environmental destruction by the encouragement of the deliberate release of genetically-engiueered,organisms; f) severe effects of patenting life on small farmers and producers; and g) the continued and growing confusion in the legal community over precise and acceptable definitions of patentable living matter.


Patenting life forms raises questions of economic and social justice shared by many other patenting issues. It also raises new and profound theological, ethical, legal and environmental concerns. Therefore, the following recommendation is proposed:

The World Council of Churches believes that animal life-forms should not be patented and calls for further study of the profound moral and social implications of patenting life forms.


José is an Argentinian farm worker. In 1986, he was paid to take part in an experiment involving the injection of twenty cows with a genetically engineered rabies vaccine. The vaccine was developed by an American Institution. The experiment was the first release of a genetically engineered vaccine in Argentina. The American institution sponsoring the trial had not Informed the Argentine government.

Upon hearing of this experiment the Argentine government halted this and had the inoculated cows killed. Unfortunately it was discovered that José and 17 of his fellow workers who had been in contact with the inoculated cows had become infected by rabies due to the genetically engineered vaccine.

Since the earliest days of human culture, the metabolic properties of organisms have been used by humans. But the new means of bioconversion, involving tissue culture and genetic technology, transcend the quality of those traditional techniques.

In addition to the production of pharmaceutical products, possible forms of industrial application of biotechnolgy include biological ore leaching, energy supply (Ethanol, Methane), and environmental technologies aimed at the reduction of pollution and the biological control of pests. In agriculture and food production, it is the goal of biotechnology to improve the quantity, quality and the spectrum of resistances of plants and animals. Notable successes in certain instances can already be expected.

Some ethical questions arise separately according to different areas and procedures: The use of micro-organisms in laboratory research and industrial production raises questions of health, and environmental compatibility. In particular, the deliberate release of such micro-organisms into the environment is a matter of strong ecological concern.

A central question that must be answered prior to any large scale releases of genetically engineered organisms into the environment is what risks such products pose to the earth's ecology. The issue of the environmental. effects of genetically engineered organisms is made more urgent by the fact that, throughout the world, the biotechnology industry is preparing to release scores of genetically engineered viruses, bacteria, plant strains and transgenic animals into the environment in the next few years. Over the neat several decades, thousands of genetically engineered life forms may enter the world's ecosystems in large commercial volumes.

Because they are alive, genetically engineered products are inherently more unpredictable than chemical products. Genetically engineered products can reproduce, mutate, and migrate. Once released it is virtually impossible to recall these living products back to the laboratory. A survey of one hundred of the world's top scientists acknowledged the potential benefits of genetic engineering, but warned that "its imprudent or careless use ... could lead to irreversible, devastating damage to the ecology."

Moreover, environmental scientists have compared the risk of releasing biotechnology products to those we have encountered in introducing exotic organisms into various habitats, such as in North America. While most of these organisms have adapted to their new ecosystems, several such as Chestnut Blight, Kudzu vine, Dutch Elm Disease, the Gypsy moth, and the Killer Bees have wreaked havoc on the environment. Genetically engineered plants and animals also could reproduce with native species and pollute native gene pools of entire species in a relatively short time. The long term cumulative environmental impact of the deliberate release of thousands of genetically engineered organisms could be devastating. One approach now being undertaken in Japan and in several European countries, is to have a moratorium on the deliberate release of any and all genetically engineered organisms until such time as a "predictive ecology" can be developed which will be capable óf adequately assessing the effect that these organisms will have on the environment.

The basic issues that arise with the deliberate release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment can be differentiated according to what kind of organism is being released. As noted, some favour a general ban altogether on any release of genetically engineered or modified organisms, because starting any release programme would be the first step on a slippery slope, making protection against the eventual risks of certain releases nearly impossible. Others argue that we can discern between those organisms that are reproductive and those which are not, and between those that may cause damage and others that are harmless. Therefore, they propose various types of controls over any deliberate release of such genetically engineered organisms, complete with comprehensive assessments of all possible environmental risks.

The multiplication, increase and modification of plants through biotechnology raises concerns related to health (food quality), environmental compatibility (ecological problems in agriculture, change of ecosystems, protection of species, climate change) and economic dependencies which are created. The same is true in animal production. There, special attention has to be given to animal rights, protection of species, and the transfer of procedures from animals to humans.

This final concern about the release of certain genetically engineered organisms, then, involves their intended effects. An example of this problem is the recently created herbicide resistant plants, such as wheat, rice or corn. These plants can withstand far larger amounts of herbicide than the non-engineered plants. This allows the farmer to use far more herbicide, which in turn causes significant soil. and water pollution. Many times it is the same corporation which makes both the herbicide and the herbicide resistant crops. The profitability of the corporation is achieved at the expense of ever increasing pollution of the environment.


In light of the serious ecological risks posed by the release of genetically engineered micro-organisms into the environment, the following recommendation has been approved:

The World Council of Churches urges the swift adoption of strict international controls on the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment.


Military Uses of Genetic Engineering

Biological and chemical warfare have never been widely used because of the expense and danger involved in processing and stockpiling large volumes of toxic materials, and the difficulty in targetting the dissemination of biological agents. The WCC 1982 report Manipulating Life warned that "rapid growth in techniques of bio-manipulation... could increase the effectiveness of biological weapons in terms of transportability, survival under field conditions, virulence and specificity for target human, animal and plant populations." The fears expressed in the 1982 report have been borne out. New advances in genetic engineering technologies over the past decade have made biological warfare a viable military possibility for the first time in history.

In countries around the world, biological and chemical warfare research programmes are devoted to research in "militarily significant" bacteria, viruses, and toxins. These pathogens can be used to destroy animals, crops, and people. They can mutate, reproduce, multiply, and spread over a large geographic area by wind, animal, and insect transmission. Once released, many biological pathogens are capable of developing a viable niche and maintaining themselves in the environment indefinitely.

There is growing evidence of increased reliance on genetic engineering in biological and chemical warfare' research programs around the world. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that genetic engineering allows for the rapid exploitation of nature's resources for warfare purposes in ways not even imagined ten to fifteen years ago.

Genetic engineering performs two major functions in biological warfare research. First, relatively simple cloning technology creates the ability to quickly replicate and reproduce potent "traditional" pathogens which until now were available only in minute quantities, and only upon isolation from immense amounts of biological materials. These fatal bacteria, toxins, and viruses now can be cultured, grown, and prepared in industrial guantities after a relatively short developmental Period. Large quantities of biological weapons, previously available only in minute amounts, thus become available at relatively low costs. Traditional biological agents include yersinia pestis (the plague), anthrax, botulism, snake venom, tularemia, rift valley fever, coxiella burnetii (Q fever), eastern equine encephalitis, and small pox. These pathogens have been traditionally selected for biological warfare research due to their pathogenicity, quick infectivity, and ability to rapidly disseminate.

Additionally, new advances in biotechnology permit the creation of a wide variety of 'novel' warfare agents. These novel agents, created by the genetic engineering of various traits into bacteria viruses and toxins would represent pathogens never known before. Recombinant DNA "novel" weapons can be created in many ways. New genetic engineering technologies can be used to programme genes into infectious micro-organisms to increase their virulence, antibiotic resistance, and environmental stability. It may even be possible to insert genes into organisms which affect regulatory functions that control mood and behaviour, mental status, body temperature, and other functions.

Additionally, scientists say they may soon be able to clone selective toxins that affect specific racial or ethnic groups whose genotype predisposes them to certain disease patterns. Genetic engineering could also be used to destroy specific strains of agricultural plants or domestic animals in order to cripple the economy of a country. In sum, the implications of advances in genetic engineering when applied to the development and production of biological and chemical weapons are extraordinary and frightening. This research could signal the beginning of a new and deadly genetic arms race.

Since 1982, several countries have rapidly expanded their biological and chemical warfare research programmes. In the United States, alone, government funding of biological warfare has increased approximately 700% over the last seven years, and chemical weapons research has increased about 300%. It can be presumed that other industrialized powers are also devoting substantial resources to such military applications of. this technology. Moreover, as researchers use biological processes to synthesize biological toxins and chemical toxins, the line between biological warfare and chemical warfare is beginning to disappear.

The dangers of biological warfare research have been noted by many in government, science, and public health sectors. They have warned that the use of recombinant DNA technology for crafting novel biological toxins could rival the potential destructiveness of nuclear weaponry in coming decades. As one international health expert stated "weapons designed and built with modern biotechnology will leave us no reasonable opportunity to protect the public. This is true whether the public is exposed by military attack, by accident, or by terrorism. Advances in genetic engineering and other new techniques of biotechnology have magnified both the theoretical lethal capabilities of biological agents, and their potential to create public health catastrophes."

While the use of biological weapons is forbidden by the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, this convention has- been largely ineffective in preventing a build-up of biological weapons created primarily through genetic engineering. Many nations which signed the Convention maintain that they are still in compliance because their biological warfare research is "defensive" in nature. This claim is disengenious since any work on vaccines or anti-toxins to defend against biological warfare weapons depends on the creation of the traditional or novel weapon which is to be defended against. Thus, even though purportedly defensive in nature, these programmes are creating an offensive biological weapons capability.

The Protocol of 1925 on chemical weapons has also been shown to be ineffective in prohibiting the use and accumulation of chemical weapons. New and frightening uses of chemical warfare in the Middle East clearly indicate that new international initiatives on banning biological and chemical weapons are necessary.


The application of genetic engineering to biological and chemical weapons creates extraordinary hazards to world peace, human health and the environment. Therefore, the following recommendation has been approved:

The World.Council of Churches calls on nations throughout the world to cease all use of genetic engineering as part of any biological or chemical warfare research programme, and to reconvene conventions on biological and chemical weapons in order to create new and effective protocols which prohibit their development, production and use.


Given a just international economic order, the possibilities for biotechnology to make positive contributions for the Third World could bye highly significant in various areas. The shape and structure of biotechnology in such a setting would certainly be different from biotechnology designed primarily to meet to needs of monopolistic and capital intensive economies. But the promise of such contributions is being thwarted by prevailing economic realities, and by insufficient willingness to evaluate various expressions of biotechnology according to their concrete effects on building justice and assisting those who are most economically disadvantaged. Nevertheless, scientists and practioners can be challenged to develop biotechniques which could be useful tools, for instance, for the local, economically deprived Third World farmer.

Biotechnology affects the whole world. But its most profound economic impact is being felt in the Third World. This branch of science and technology, as currently practiced, is in fact increasingly determining the option for "development" in the Third World. With each passing day, biotechnology's potential for bringing about immediate and swift changes is only matched by its potential for even swifter and more widespread deprivation of humanity and damage to the environment in the Third World. In a context of gross social, economic and political inequality, technological innovations cannot automatically bring radical transformation in the quality of life.

There are possible devastating effects of biotechnology in the Third World in the area of agriculture. It has the potential to. displace traditional agricultural commodities on a massive scale. Agricultural production might become more and more laboratory-based.

Experiments are in progress which might lead to the production by biotechnological means of "natural" vanilla flavour in the laboratory - a process which could eliminate the need for traditional cultivation of the vanilla bean. This could result in the loss of over 50 million dollars in annual export earnings for Madagascar where three quarters of the world's vanilla beans are produced. Similar developments may make it soon possible for cacao butter to be produced in the laboratories of Europe, USA and Japan, causing a damaging effect on Africa which accounts for 57% of the world production. Alternative sweeteners to be used as sugar substitutes is another area of present research in biotechnology. 8 to 10 million people in the Third World who depend on the traditional sugar market could lose their means of livelihood.

The whole future of seeds is at stake. They can be cloned in the laboratories of the First World making them high yielding and disease resistant. But this process leads to serious consequences particularly for small farmers and the rural poor. Patenting of seeds and plant varieties can take genetic varieties out of the hands of the farmers in the Third World into the hands of transnational agribusiness. The small farmer, as a result, is then placed at a further disadvantage. Present methods of improving crops already have led to a rapid depletion in crop varieties - thousands of native plant varieties have been wiped out and replaced by new genetically produced plants. For example, centuries ago Bolivia and Peru were said to have had 4,000 to 6,000 varieties of potatoes. Now fewer than ,300 varieties are cultivated. Genetic engineering could accelerate this loss of diversity. Preserving this natural genetic pool is essential for the strength of the small farmer, and ultimately for worldwide agricultural well-being.

Livestock Breeding and Animal Husbandry

Embryo transfer technology facilitates the sale and export of breeding stock, and this is likely to have a significant impact on livestock breeding and herd the Third World. India, Indonesia, several Latin American countries and China are among the countries most actively importing cattle embryos. The commercialization of embryo transfer services raises many important concerns about the future of livestock breeding and the impact on the genetic erosion in animals, particularly in the Third World. The introduction of new breeds of livestock via embryo transfer could drastically reduce indigenous herds and result in another loss of valuable genetic diversity.


The area of biotechnology research that appears to have the concerns of the poor in mind is the creation of new vaccines. Fourteen new vaccines are expected to be commercially available to resist preventable diseases in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, fully two thirds of the research underway in the private sector focuses on four vaccines which will be largely for First World buyers (Hepatitis B. Herpes, Influenza and Malaria for visitors in Malaria-prone regions). History shows us that rather than developing vaccines and medicinal cures for tropical diseases in order to help the poor, the poor have in fact been used as guinea pigs to test vaccines and other new biodrugs before risking the enormous costs of clinical trials in the country of origin.


In light of the potential threats to the agricultural and economic welfare of the Third World which are posed by various effects of biotechnology's application in this area, the following recommendation has been approved:

The World Council of Churches resolves to initiate consultations between international organisations, non-governmental organisations and scientists, with the churches and others, to reflect on the political evolution of biotechnology and its impact on global justice, and to make proposals for maximizing the benefit to those who are most in need.


The rapid advance of biotechnology raises fundamental theological issues for the churches. Even more, the potential consequences of this technology call the churches to offer within their societies a vision for the future, shaped by the message of the Gospel, which can provide guidance for the choices which must be made concerning how biotechnology is utilized. Therefore, the response of the churches must begin with expressing again our faith in God's intentions for.the future of the life of the world.

We know that God wills a world where justice will flow down like a mighty stream.

We know that God wills a world which is filled with the peace of Christ.

We know that God wills a world which nurtures the integrity of all creation.

So we must ask how the capabilities of biotechnology relate to the establishment of justice, to the building of peace, and to upholding the integrity of creation.

God's justice in the world is denied if. biotechnology is utilized to increase the control of the rich nations and groups over the common biological resources.of the creation. God's justice is broken if biotechnology becomes a tool for genetic discrimination against vast groups of people. And God's justice is violated if biotechnology imposes on women dangerous and exploitive reproductive techniques.

The peace of Christ in the world is violated by all those who use biotechnology to perfect military means for spreading diseases and death.

The integrity of creation is damaged if biotechnology is utilized by commercial pressures to manufacture new life forms that are valued only as economic commodities. The integrity of creation is attacked if biotechnology is used to reduce the rich diversity of human life and to threaten the uniqueness of each individual. The integrity of creation is undermined if new organisms are created and released into the environment irresponsibly.

The biological sciences can contribute to the discovery of the intrinsic mysteries of life within the creation. The grandeur, beauty, and internal wonder of nature is being further revealed to human perception, and the creative possibilities of human ingenuity are being enlarged.

The technological tools enabling these discoveries also confer enormous power, and it is vital that this should be used to expand human empathy with the whole of creation, rather than increasing human enmity toward the creation.

The arts and ministry of healing can be furthered through the discoveries of biotechnology. Healing the wounds within humanity and creation could be enhanced through the contribution of this knowledge. The wholeness of interrelationship of the world's life can be understood more profoundly through the insights possible from biotechnology.

Yet, such promises require a vision and commitment to the integrity of creation, as God's gift. Upholding this integrity, establishing justice, and furthering peace must be understood as the purpose which shapes the forms and uses of biotechnology. Only such a commitment can enable this technology to contribute fruits which are rooted in God's love for this world, and testify to God's glory.

The temptation humanity faces is to utilize biotechnology to redesign life within the created world in order to conform to a technocratic and industrial vision of the creation.

The promises of biotechnology can find true fulfilment if.our faith in God as Creator transforms our vision of the creation, and then guides the expression of this technology.

This calls the churches to reaffirm the sacredness and essential goodness of God's creation, and in the words of the Integrity of Creation report, to "proclaim again the presence of Christ in and for the world. We reaffirm the divine presence within the material world of human existence. We are reminded of our utter dependence upon the just sharing of human labour, food, drink and the material substance of the world. We, therefore, proclaim our unity as human beings in our common need for each other and for the integration of creation. As we break the bread together, we celebrate the sanctification of the material world of which the bread and we ourselves are part: the world of soil, water and air, of forests, mountains and lakes: a world continually bearing new life, nourishing, nurturing, rejoicing, aging, suffering, grieving, dying and revealing God.17


1 World Council of Churches, Department on Church and Society (1974), Anticipation, No. 17, 60f.

2 World Council of Churches, Department of Church & Society (1970), Anticipation, No. 2, 4-9.

3 World Council of. Churches, Department on Church and Society (1982), Manipulating Life - Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering, Geneva.

4 ibid. 6.

5 . 6f, 9.

6 ibid. 8.

7 ibid. 16.

8 ibid. 19.

9 ibid. 25.

10 ibid. X.

11 World Council of Churches, Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Programme Report from Norway Consultation (1988), Integrity-of Creation, p. 23.

12 ibid. p. 3

13 ibid. p. 3

14 ibid. p. 11.

15 ibid. p. 4.

16 Manipulating Life, op.cit., p. 9.

17 JPIC op.cit., pp. 20-21


Publications of the World Council of Churches or Its Member Churches On Ethical Issues of Biotechnology

Anglican Church of Australia, Making Babies: The Test Tube and Christian Ethics, Alan Nichols and Trevor Hogan (Eds), Acorn Press, Canberra, 1984.

Australian Council of Churches: Commission on the Status of Women, Rock-a Bye Test Tube: Reproductive Technology and the Churches, 1986, Sydney.

I Birch, Ch. Abrecht, P. (eds.), Genetics and the Quality of Life, Potts Point, Elmsford, N.Y., Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1975.

Church of England, Board for Social Responsibility of the General Synod of the Church of England (1983), Evidence to the DHSS (Warnock) Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology (GS Misc 172), London: CIO Publishing.

Church of England, Board for Social Responsibility of the General Synod of the Church of England (1984), Human Fertilization and Embryology. The Response of the Board for Social Responsibility of the General Synod of the Church of England to the DHSS Report of the Committee of Inquiry, London: Social Policy Committee Board for Social Responsibility.

Church of England, Board for Social Responsibility of the General Synod of the Church of England (1985), Personal Origins. The Report of a Working Party on Human Fertilization and Embryology of the Board for Social Responsibility. London: CIO Publishing.

Church of Scotland, Board of Social Responsibility (1985), Letter to All Scottish Members of Parliament (Summary of the Boards Comments to the Warnock Report), Edinburgh.

Church of Scotland, Board of Social Responsibility (1985), Response to the Report of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology (Warnock Report), in: The Church of Scotland, General Assembly, Edinburgh: Blackwood, Pillans and Wilson Ltd.

Deutsche Evangelische Allianz, Hauptvorstand (1987), Die neuen Mõglichkeiten der Gentechnologie. Grundsãtzliche ethische Ueberlegungen. Eine Stellungnahme des Hauptvorstandes der Deutschen Evangelischen Allianz (Dokumentation/Informationsdienst der Evangelischen Allianz 87/17), hg. v. Idea e.V., Wetzlar 1987.

Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland - Kommission zu Fragen der Sexualethik (1971), Denkschrift zu Fragen der Sexualethik, in: Die Denkschriften der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Band 3, hg. von der Kirchenkanzlei der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1981.

Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (1985), Von der Würde werdendea Lebens. Extrakorporale Befruchtung, Fremdschwangerschaft and genetische Beratung - Eine Handreichung der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland zur ethischen Urteilsbildung. Hg. vom Kirchenamt im Auftrage des Rates der EKD, Hannover 1985, verbffentlicht am 3. November 1985 in Trier in: EKD Texte 11 and in epd Dokumentation 47/85.

Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (1986), Stellungnahme der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland zum Diskussionsentwurf eines Gesetzes zum Schutz von Embryonen (maschinenschriftliches Manuskript).

I Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (1987), Achtung vor dem Leben. Kundgebuag der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland zu Gentechnik and Fortpflanzungsmedizin auf der Tagung der EKD-Synode vom 1. bis 6. November 1987, in: epd Dokumentation 49/87.

Fédération Protestante de France (1987), Biologie et Ethique, Eléments de Réflexion, in: Autres Temps, Les Cahiers du Christianisme Social 14/1987, in: Istin 32/1987, 280-283.

Free Church Federal Council, British Council of Churches (1982), Choices in Childlessness. The Report of a Working Party set up in July 1979 under the auspices of the Free Church Federal Council and the British Council of Churches, London.

Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Religion and Moral Committee (1984), Representations by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Connection with the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology (Cmmd 9314), Edinburgh.

National Council of Churches of Christ/USA (1984), Panel on Bioethical Concerns, Genetic Engineering, Social and Ethical Consequences, The Pilgrim Press, New York.

National Council of Churches of Christ/USA, Division of Education and Ministry (1980), Human Life and the New Genetics. A Report of a Task Force Commissioned by the National Council of Churches.of-Christ in the USA, New York.

National Council of Churches of Christ/USA, official policy statement on Genetic Science for Human Benefit, May 1986, New York.

Reformed Church. in America (1988) Genetic Engineering: Theological and Ethical Perspectives (written manuscript).

Schweizerischer Evangelischer Kirchenbund (1985), Recht auf Lebea. Medizinische, juristische, theologische and ethische Gesichtspunkte. Eine Dokumentation zur aktuellen Diskussion: Droit à la vie du point de vue médicale, juridique, thiologique et ethique. Une documentation Sur l'état de la discussion actuelle, Bern.

United Church of Christ Board of Homeland Ministries and Office for Church and Society (1985), Resource Packet on Genetic Engineering, New York.

United Church of Christ Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (1986), The Church and Genetic Engineering, in: The CHHSM Report. Papers on public policy issues 1986/2.

Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands (1986), "Du hast mich gebildet im Mutterleibe". Biotechnologie als Herausforderung an die Verantwortung des Menschen, Arbeitsergebnisse der Klausurtagung der Bischofskonferenz auf dem Hessenkopf (Mirz 1986), Texte au-s der VELKD 32/1986, hg. Lutherisches Kirchenamt der VELKD, Hannover 1986.'

World Council of Churches, Subunit on Church 6 Society (1982), Manipulating Life. Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering. Geneva.

World Council of Churches, Subunit on Church & Society (ed.), Creation and the Kingdom of God (Church & Society Documents No. 5), Geneva 1988.

World Council of Churches, Subunit on Church & Society (ed.), Science b
Theology of Creation. Bossey Seminar (Church & Society Documents No. 4), Geneva 1988.


Many people have given unselfishly of their time, expertise, and skill in order to enable the preparation of this report and the approval, by the WCC, of its recommendations. The Drafting Committee included:

Pirkko Penttilã of Finland, Aruna Gnanadason of India, Hartwig von Schubert of the Federal Republic of Germany, Surendra Patel of the Dominican Republic, and Andrew Kimbrell of the United States of America.

This group met with the Church and Society staff in Geneva early in 1989 to do the initial planning, organization, and writing. An initial draft was then refined and sent to experts for review: 40 sent in substantive comments. Various members of the Church and Society Working Committee also made helpful criticisms and contributions.

Aruna Gnanadason, Hartwig von Schubert, and Andrew Kimbrell served as advisors to the Central Committee of the WCC at its meeting in Moscow in July. Their presence and work was of substantial assistance to the Central Committee consideration and action on these matters.

Archbishop John Habgood, Moderator of the Church and Society Working Committees, provided superb 'leadership to the process of discussing, revising, and approving the report and its recommendations at the Central Committee meeting. His efforts insured that the Central Committee, and those who served on the subcommittee which considered the report in detail, were able to provide informed, careful, and thorough consideration of these issues.

Finally, the other members of the Church and, Society staff in Geneva have provided many long hours of assistance and participation in this process, including Freda Rajotte our programme Secretary, Peony Wong, and Christine Haselbach.

All of these contributions have enabled the complex and urgent issues related to biotechnology to be brought to the Central Committee of the WCC for action, and now to be sent among member churches to support and assist their responses to these matters.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Subunit on Church & Society