PRESS RELEASE. Mons. Vincenzo Paglia: biology discovers the complexity of life; biotechnology can directly intervene in genetic editing with substantial alterations. Networks of dialogue and information not serving partisan interests must be created.
Vatican City, April 27, 2018 - What are the limits of technology? Mons. Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, was interviewed today in the Vatican for the occasion of the Conference on Regenerative Medicine organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture together with the Care Foundation
Engaging the theme “Genetics and ethics,” Mons. Paglia noted that “even if only from a “biological” point of view, researchers are increasingly discovering more of the complexity of life: its development involves the expression of its genes, it belongs to the ecosystems which modify it, and it it flexible in its ability to adapt. So while biology seems to emerge from a narrow functionalism, it is biotechnologies that risk falling back on it. We must take this into account if we are to address objectively and appropriately the technical and ethical challenges arising from the use of new scientific and technological knowledge about man. Taking care of man cannot be limited to a quantitative increase in the number and intensity of his functions, as if it were an improvement in the performance of a machine or an animal organism".
Mons. Paglia raised three examples of biotechnologies that relapsed in the ethical field. First: intervening with genes “risks becoming a norm to which we adapt, supporting the selection and the segregation of the person on the basis of genuine genetic discrimination. Already, we have heard about a preconceptional genetic examination for potential parents, which would then be a sort of authorization to conceive.” Second: “New methodologies of modification for modifying germ cells (or embryos at the earliest stages of development), with transmission of changes to the progeny.” Third: techniques of intervention on the somatic cells (genome editing): “The CRISPR-Cas technique9 raises the question of the loss of a clear boundary between therapeutic interventions and improvement interventions. The distinction depends largely on the context: the same intervention (e.g. growth of blood vessels or muscle tissue) can be considered therapeutic to combat a disease or to increase athletic performance.”
In conclusion, Mons. Paglia reiterated what was already emphasized by the Pontifical Magisterium of the 20th Century and by Pope Francis, “There is a need to guarantee a scientific and social debate that is responsible and ample, in the degree of considering all available information and of calling things by their name. At times we do not bring to the table complete information, but we select information according to our interests, whether they be political, economical, or ideological. This makes it difficult to develop a balanced and prudent judgement on these diverse questions, keeping present all of the variables involved. There is a need for forums in which all those who might be directly or indirectly involved (farmers, consumers, authorities, scientists, seed producers, people close to treated fields and others) can present their concerns or have access to extensive and reliable information to make decisions for the common good, present and future.