Integrating the ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural aspects into life science and biotechnology research
As the life sciences and biotechnology
develop, they contribute considerably to securing personal
and social welfare, as well as to creating new opportunities
for our economies. At the same time, the general public is
increasingly concerned about the social and ethical consequences
of these advances in knowledge and techniques, as well as
about the conditions forming the choices made in these fields.
Indeed, a certain public reluctance to support these developments
seems to exist at times, and there are still significant European
differences in national attitudes towards specific techniques
and areas of research in this field. Nevertheless, there is
growing agreement in Europe on the need to regulate these
developments, seeking a balance between assuring the freedom
of research and the protection of the individual.
Our democratic societies should offer the necessary
safeguards and channels of dialogue to ensure that the development
and application of the life sciences and biotechnology respects
the fundamental values recognised by the European Union in
of Fundamental Rights.
Thus, an effective societal scrutiny, an ongoing
public dialogue, and an integration of ethical and social
aspects into the early phases of research, before the technology
is ready for use by society, are key preconditions for harvesting
the potential of biotechnology (ref. The European Commission
communication on ‘Life science and biotechnology –
a strategy for Europe’ [
– 176 Kb] published January 2002).
Under the Sixth Framework Programme for Research
(2002-2006), the European Commission has taken the responsibility
of ensuring that the ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural
aspects are taken into account at the earliest possible stage
of Community-funded research in the life sciences and biotechnology.
The ethical and social debate needs to become a natural part
of the research and development process, involving the general
public to the greatest extent possible.
In order to achieve this goal, the ethical,
legal, social, and wider cultural aspects will be addressed
at several levels by:
I. promoting the integration of ethical,
legal, and social analyses into research projects
II. encouraging public dialogue and the participation of
stakeholders in research projects
III. fostering ethical awareness and foresight attention
IV. supporting specific actions to promote the debate on
ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural aspects of the
life sciences and biotechnology, as well as the monitoring
and evaluation of their consequences.
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