back to article Swiss ponder the 'dignity of plants'

A Swiss government ethics committee has issued guidelines on the thorny issue of the "dignity of plants" in relation to biotech research after the country's 2004 Gene Technology Law declared that "the dignity of creatures" should be considered in any grant-funded research. According to Nature, while this phrase attracted …


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  1. Christoph

    The obvious insult

    The most obvious and worst insult to the dignity of plants is to cook and devour them. I trust that the Swiss will refrain from such behaviour in future.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plant dignity

    Geeert yer fronds out for the laaaads!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    An insult to plant dignity

    'Specifically, the committee has issued a "decision tree presenting the different issues that need to be taken into account for each case".'

    These people take the name of a mighty and dignified family of plants, trees, use it with such callous disregard and lecture *us* on respecting the dignity of plants?

    A tree is more that a collection of branches!

    Down with decision trees!!!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've spoken to my plants and they were very insistent that GM modification certainly offends their dignity!

  5. Pete Silver badge

    someone has WAY too much spare time and money

    Dignity? Pah.

    Anyone with an ounce (or should that be: gram) of sense realises that only beings with self-awareness are even possibilities for dignity. Even so, when you watch see a pig - even an "organic" one in a field, happily rolling around in it's own sh... you realise that dignity is purely a human construct and to transfer it to other members of the natural world is simply ludicrous. A historical (apocryphal) example is the story about victorians placing lace garments over table laegs, in order not to offend.

    from the article:

    > Specifically, the committee has issued a "decision tree presenting the different issues that need to be taken into account for each case".

    All I can say is, I hope they took into account how the decision tree feels about this, and the the "issuing" was done in a dignified manner.

  6. dervheid


    the world IS going to hell on a hand cart.

    This is political correctness gone mentally disturbed.

    Surely for any organism to be capable of comprehending a state of dignity, it would have to be fully sentient and self aware.

    Which, would qualify most vegetables as celebrities, or have I got that the wrong way round?

  7. dervheid

    Then again...

    if we DO have to consider the dignity of plants, that'll be all the rabid lentil-munching vegetarians/vegans TOTALLY buggered for food then!


  8. Pete


    As one of those rabid lentil-munching vegetarians to which you refer, all I can say is "Death to Plants!!!!"

  9. Anonymous Coward

    It seems clear enough to me

    There must be no research into the effects of the loss a plant's trousers whilst in public.

    All research must be conducted with a nurse on standby to administer privacy screens as needed.

    Plants must not be forced into social situations outside of their usual habitat. A common shrub must not be forced to endure a vacuous middle-class dinner party where ridicule may ensue.

    Anyone who has been to the Confederatio Helvetica will believe absolutely ANYTHING of them.

  10. Jason Baziliauskas

    Lose of independence!?!

    "While it has conceded that GM modification of plants doesn't automatically offend said dignity, experiments which caused them to "lose their independence" would do so."

    Does this mean keeping them indoors in a plant pot is not to be done because they can't get water and light for themselves?

    Mines the Green Anthropomorphic coat.

  11. Matt Robinson


    To quote Jack Handey, “If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.”

  12. ImaGnuber

    The Swiss Effect

    "This is a great step forward." declared Mr Potato Head. "I look forward to the day when someone like me can expect to be welcomed into the ranks of senior management. I don't think it is too far-fetched to even look forward to a time when people will think nothing of electing us to public office!"

    "Oh, wait..."

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consider then...

    ... the dignity of the marijuana you were smoking when you came up with these proposals. Oh, your just experimenting with it? When I want to see a 4 page proposal on the dignity of the plan in your 'experimentation', as well as the dignity of the tree that the paper is made from.

    Hemp paper? Fair enough, don't do one on the tree. Do one on the hemp plant. Be sure to spell-check your documents, and try not to use the word 'dude' in your presentation. Thank you.

  14. Michael Habel

    In the word's of the Poet:

    I just don't want to ean an animal that's standing there inviteing me to, said Arthur it's heartless.

    Better then eating an animal that doesn't want to be eaten said Zaphod.

    That's not the pointAuthor protested the then thought about it for a moment, all right he said maybe it is the point. I don't care, I'm not going to think about it now. I'll just... er... I think I'll just have a gree salad

    May I urge you to consider my liver? it must be very rich and tender by now, I've been force-feeding myself for months.

    A green salad said Arthur emphatically

    A green salad? said the animal, rolling his eyes disapprovingly at arthur.

    (...ok now the punhline)

    Are you going to tell me, said Arthur, that I shouldn't have a Green Salad?

    Well said the animal I know many vegetables that are very clear that point. Which is why it was everntually decided to cut through the whole tangled problem and breed ann an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of saying so clearly and distinctly, and here I am.

    ...For all of Life answers there's only One Book to turn to (ok so there's Five, Six if you coun't Young Zaphod Plays it Safe), to answer these questions.

    The Man (Douglas Adams was) was a total genus!!

  15. Anonymous Coward


    If plants have 'dignity'. would a picture of a salad be classed as extreme pr0n?

    Mines the dirty mac with the nubile celery in the pocket. Fnar Fnar.

  16. david wilson


    >>"If plants have 'dignity'. would a picture of a salad be classed as extreme pr0n?"

    Only if it's not properly dressed?

  17. ImaGnuber


    The forces of the PC movement have entered the fray with a rapidly growing list of 'offensive' words and phrases:

    "Carrot on a stick" is deemed very offensive as is "As alike as two peas in a pod" with its suggestion that 'they' all look alike.

    'Chip off the old block' is to be avoided even though its origins have nothing to do with the potato. "We must err on the side of sensitivity" said one PC supporter.

    Fry, fried, and boiled make some members of our constituency uncomfortable and should be replaced with 'heat-treated with oil, water etc.' For example, the great British fry-up should now be replaced with something like 'Would you like the great British-heat-treated-with-lard for brekkies?' and so on.

    Cauliflower-ear is to be avoided as it clearly equates cauliflower-ness as a deformity.

    We can expect some classic stories to be re-written. 'The Princess and the Pea' is first up. Expect a tale with The Pea on top.

    The world is changing and we must change with it.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I originally read this as...

    ...‘Swiss ponder the 'dignity of planets''. After reading the article, I'm glad to see I was wrong. I can't imagine anything as ridiculous as pondering the dignity of planets. Pondering the dignity of plants is a much more sensible persuit.

  19. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Salads

    Or if it's tossed, obviously.

    Oh dervheid, if you ever use the words 'hell' and 'handcart' in the Littlejohn configuration again I shall have to give you a good slap with a copy of the latest Will Self.

  20. ImaGnuber

    RE: So...

    "would a picture of a salad be classed as extreme pr0n?"

    Only if it is shown without dressing... oh but the dressing could be oil... this is a quandary.

  21. Andrew Moore

    I often ponder the "dignity of the Swiss"...

    ...they always seem to be very tight lipped about their bankrolling of the nazi war machine in World War 2.

  22. Luther Blissett


    Pigist prejudice. Pigs are meticulous in designated a specific area for giving back to nature. They roll around in mud to cool off, as they cannot sweat away excess body heat, and don't want to be cooked pork before their allotted time. They are also far smarter than dogs- in fact they are smart enough to play computer games for food. (Which could be turned into an ad hominem argument).

    @dervheld: "Surely for any organism to be capable of comprehending a state of dignity, it would have to be fully sentient and self aware."

    Which would seem to rule out a lot of people (e.g. Downs syndrome, West Hampstead novelists, etc) - and could rule in a lot of IT (cue amanfromMars). The fun here is that the boffins are disarmed by their scientistic ideological rejection of the very metaphysics (pace Logical Positivism) which could help them navigate the issues. Instead, what have they got? (1) empirical objective verification of (2) some sort of self-reporting. Well, parrots can be taught to say "Gordo is a Scotsman". So in effect, the dialectic can only be carried forwards by the veggies and the hippies. Faced with the prospect of being confined to gripping only crystals for the rest of their lives (per some fatuous nu laborious "Tree hugging not allowed, you perv" policing perhaps), the arguments they come up with should be entertaining.

  23. david wilson


    I thought the Princess and the Pea was more than sufficiently un-PC already.

    I mean, twenty matresses and she *still* moans about the pea.

    *Classic* stereotyping of a woman as a whinging nit-picker.

    That said, on the plus side, it *does* explain why royalty deserved to be first up against the wall when the revolutions came.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    A simple definition of "the dignity of plants".

    "The dignity of plants" is whatever it is that they are stripped of the moment Prince Charlie starts yakking on at them.

    Simple, innit?

  25. Slaine
    Paris Hilton

    trying NOT to get censored

    errrr ... carrots, cucumbers, bananas.... and "extreme pr0n". Icon.

  26. John Savard

    A Continued Assault on the Dignity of Humans

    It's a serious enough attack on the dignity of humans to have them sit around and deliberate on what the dignity of plants means.

    But since that action was a truly fruitless (pardon the expression) pursuit, instead of specifying what respecting the dignity of plants implies in any concrete fashion, they decided that "biotechnology grant applications must now include a paragraph explaining the extent to which plant dignity is considered" which means that the assault on human dignity is to be continued, with applicants for grants for biotechnology research as its victims!

  27. Hollerith

    on the other hand

    Plant enthusiasts in the 1800s and even a far into the 1900s would regularly grub up specimens to take back home. Often they would take the last visible example, knowingly, and I understand that they managed to wipe out a few species. So I can understand 'dignity of plants' as meaning 'have a little respect for the biosphere', although I know this isn't what ou EU masters mean.

  28. alphaxion

    not as daft as it seems

    Plants are the closest we can come to life that is totally alien to us - they live in a different time frame, they comunicate in a method completely outside of our comprehension and interact with us in a method that we don't understand just yet.

    If we are to ever discover life beyond our planet, we must drop the silly notion that to be intelligent, it must share features and charactistics with us. The sooner we begin to see plants as competative creatures instead of as mere scenary, passive entities here only to autonomously perform a single function then the better our awareness of life in all of its forms will be.

    It's only our arrogance that holds us back.

    And for the inevitable "plants aren't alive" crap that will spew forth, I'd recomend reading up about the plant neurobiology movement that is making great progress in comprehending the way plants live their lives.

  29. Schultz

    About time

    With all that gene technology going on, it's only a matter of time until the plants will be smarter than us. Better give them some dignity now and maybe they'll be well inclined when the day comes... Oooh, and they like CO2, so maybe if I breathe harder they'll let me live.

    Welcoming our green overlords, need plant icon, yaddayaddayadda...

  30. Schultz


    So what's the planned punishment for offenders? Really gotta clean up my balcony, too much incriminating material!

    Honest judge, I didn't know they were so thirsty!

  31. ratfox

    Great to see that the government is taking up important issues

    I mean, they could be wasting their time on the way chickens are bred, killed (if they survived the breeding) then eaten. Killing baby seals is tame in comparison.

    -random Swiss citizen

  32. Tina Starewich

    poor choice of words, or poor translation

    Perhaps if they had said, "integrity of the germplasm", they would not be the butt of this joke.

  33. Tina Starewich

    poor choice of words, or poor translation

    Perhaps if they had said, "the integrity of the germplasm", they wouldn't be the butt of these jokes.

  34. ImaGnuber

    T.R.I.F.F.I.D. ?

    "Perhaps if they had said, "the integrity of the germplasm", they wouldn't be the butt of these jokes."

    Could that be a veiled warning from the The Revolutionary Invasion Force Forward Investigative Division?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    All plants used in this movie went to dignitas of their own free will after buying a one way ticket.

  36. Slaine

    wait a minute... plants or veg?

    The genus Cannabis is, after all, NOT LETHAL. Was it not recently subject to an unmitigated onslaught of unsubstantiated rumours, found guilty without a trial (even by it's peers) and finds itself now languishing in "ClassB" status when it's only crime was to spread a little hippiness.

  37. Pete
    Paris Hilton

    Classless Plant Democracy

    I firmly beleive that plants should be able to vote, and that the class system which cannabis is enmired, should be abolished.

    Paris Hilton because it is undignified for vegetables to wear clothes.

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