Brazil: Ethical Aspects Of Biotechnology

Last Updated: 8 March 2013
Article by Maria Thereza Wolff

Some considerations of ETHICS are necessary for us to explore our theme properly.

Aristotle and St. Thomas of Aquino admit the existence of an absolute value, which is the supreme good, God being the ultimate goal of man.

Kant admits that the normal meaning of human acts lies in the rightness of the purposes. He states: "Act always in such a way that the principle of your action can be raised to the category of universal law".

Theobaldo Miranda Santos defines ETHICS in his Manual of Philosophy as being "the study of human action regarded as free and personal, its purpose being that of working out rules at will in his inclination to the good. It is therefore a science that deals with the use the man should make of his freedom in order to achieve his ultimate goal.

The nature of ETHICS is therefore that of a normative science, because it studies the principles that should govern human action, that is to say, man's conduct, indicating the duty which we must perform, preventing our action from being dominated by instinctive reactions, by the impulses of affection and by the sophisms of passion.

BIOTECHNOLOGY in turn, taking one of its numberless definitions, is any technological application which uses biological systems, living beings or those derived from the latter, in order to produce or modify products or processes for a specific purpose.

Combining these two themes, we now enter an extremely subjective field, namely that of the Ethical Aspects of Biotechnology, and start our work by approaching the various currents which influence these Ethical Aspects.

1. Religions

The present progress of Biotechnology has caused the Centre Universitaire de Recherches Administratives et Politiques de Picardie (France) to hold in Amiens a colloquy to debate the juridical protection of a person in the face of the biotechnological risks, the ethical aspect of the problem from the standpoint of the religions represented at said colloquy:

a) Catholicism - the new Catholicism regards as immoral the production of human embryos for exploitation as a bank of biological material, and the genetic manipulation for the purpose of selecting the sex or other characteristics of the fetus without any therapeutic purpose, because this violates the personal dignity of the human being, while the techniques of reproduction which involve a person other than the married couple, as for instance the donation of sperm or the "hired belly" are dishonest.

b) Presbyterianism - the Presbyterian Church accepts artificial insemination with a donor, provided that the child, upon being born, gets to know his genitor, but it does not admit prenatal prevention of physically disabled beings, with a strong argument, namely: how can one deem the physical disability to be intolerable from the point of view of the unborn child?

The danger of going from prevention on to the refusal of acceptance of the disabled may imply not loving ones' own child after his or she has been born.

c) Islam - Biology from the ethical standpoint of Islam presents the following situation: fertilization in vitro is a science revealed in the Eighteenth Century and, if it is carried out by the spermatozoon of the husband, it is approved. The problem of the "hired mothers" is solved by the Koran as follows: the mother's milk is equal to the blood and, since a "wet nurse" can be remunerated, a hired mother who supplies blood to the embryo and fetus can also be remunerated. The embryo will only reach the status of a human being from the 12th day on, and interrupting the gestation by a therapeutic measure is not a crime; however, euthanasia and autopsy are crimes.

d) Judaism - a Jew feels responsible for revealed law, and not for a law drawn up by humans, and the revealed law cannot be adapted to the circumstances. Man is responsible for the individuals and species. So slaughtering animals and felling plants are not crimes; but extinguishing species is a crime. In Judaism there are crimes with divine judgment and crimes with social responsibility. Abortion and euthanasia to abbreviate suffering are prohibited.

e) Buddhism - Biotechnology in the light of the Buddhist ethics states the following:

Artificial insemination is permitted, and as regards the risks BUDDHA states that obtaining the human birth is very difficult, and when the biologists reduce the difficulties of the birth, they perform an act of goodness.

2. Regulations And Rules

In several countries there are rules, recommendations and regulations in the area of genetic engineering to protect the users and their environment as far as the release of products from Biotechnology is concerned. And to creating these regulations there was not need to prevent patentability of Biotechnology, since the PATENTS refer to Industrial Property, and the USE of such products refers to the GOVENMENTAL POLICIES.

In Australia, among many regulations there is the Code of Practice of Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Experiments (1990); the Rules of genetic manipulation on a small scale (1980); the Rules for manipulation of genetically engineered organisms (1990).

In Austria there is the Act of controlled use and of intended release of genetically modified organisms in the environment (1991).

In Canada the Rules for handling recombinant DNA molecules of viruses and cells (1989) are cited.

In the USA the Governmental Regulations for the planned introductions of products from biotechnology into the environment are cited (1992); the Rules for introduction of genetically engineered plants and microorganisms (1991).

In Germany, there is the Law of Regulation of matter from Genetic Engineering (1990); the Rules of recombination in vitro of genetic material (1986); the Guidelines of Safety in Genetic Engineering; the Rules and Regulations for Safety in researches of biotechnology and production.

In France there is the Manual of practices of good research and of tests in the field of transgenic plants.

In India there are the Rules of Safety in researches of Genetic engineering and the Rules of Safety of recombinant DNA.

In Japan, the Rules for application of recombinant DNA in agriculture, in the cultivation of forest trees, in fishing, in food and in related industries.

3. Good And Evil

It is of paramount importance for us, as professionals of Industrial Property and as human beings, to have a well-defined idea of the protection of living beings, respecting our internal rules of morality and ethics, but with the knowledge and awareness of what we are assuming with this formed idea. For this purpose, we will comment some basic points of view which will be appraised here, so that each person can draw his own conclusions.

For this purpose, we will divide ourselves into two groups, one being that of the BIO-FUNDAMENTALISTS, that is, those who do not desire any change in the "status quo" and, if possible, even wish the return to the phases the preceded the changes; and the other being that of the BIO-PROGRESSISTS, who accept the changes and incorporate them in their "daily life". We will raise 6 basic questions:

Bio-Fundamentalists Immoral

1) It is immoral that Man interferes with the "Holiness of Life" and with the "Integrity of the Species", by creating genetically transformed beings which, if they spread over the face of the earth, a fact which could hardly be avoided, will modify our environment in an entirely unpredictable unknown way.


2) The Scientific Community, mainly the academic researchers, in the face of the new source of revenue from patents and their licenses in biotechnology and genetic engineering, were no longer interested in publishing the results of their researches as before, but rather they began to keep them under lock and key as secrets, because "that" research might make him a millionaire through the patents. However, the pure research which has always served as a basis for applied researches is being abandoned, because it is not interesting to the researcher. Now there is a mercantilist spirit in the Universities, which is corrupting the academic world with serious consequences for the future of mankind.


3) The extent of the risks which genetically transformed plants and animals might bring to the human beings is not known. A patent unquestionably foments the researches and consequently the commercialization of genetically transformed plants and animals, with unknown results for the Planet.


4) Biodiversity, which is the co-existence in nature of animals and vegetables, which have been distributed in this way over the centuries by natural selection, will be seriously threatened with unpredictable consequences for the environment and, therefore, for us human beings.

As a result of patenting living beings, enormous extents of land will be used for monoculture of genetically modified plants, which will bring more money to the holders of the respective patents with complete destruction of ecosystems.


5) Only multinational companies and cartels, in which the economic power predominates, could research and exploit modern biotechnology and genetic engineering, thus making the division between the rich and the poor clearer and clearer.

Riches And Of Emerging Countries

6) Due to the advent of patents in the sector of plants and medicaments, the tropical forests, which are the great riches of emerging countries, will be patented, the emerging populations having to pay "royalties" for using their own property.

Bio-Progressists Immoral

1) Always, in every area, new customs were hardly accepted in the beginning, and history is there to prove this!

Today, the Societies are considering it "normal" that Man interferes with the "Holiness of Life" and with the "Integrity of the Species", by creating genetically transformed beings. Tomorrow, these being genetically transformed by inserting, for instance, a new bone marrow, will be cured of cancer or of their genetic tendency to contracting Alzheimer's disease, and then this sector of Biotechnology will no longer be considered "immoral".

Said "immorality" is therefore more a psychological problem than a matter relating to Industrial Property.

As to our environment, and its transformations caused by genetically transformed beings, they are possible, just as this transformation is possibly by burning vegetation and forest fire, prospecting and mining activities, felling tries with sawing machines and predatory fishing.


2) The mercantilist spirit of the present university milieu is beneficial in a sense, because it enables the Universities not to be supported exclusively by the governments or by donations, and so the number of researchers can be greatly increased due to the financial return of the investments through patents and their licenses. In addition, a patent discloses knowledge by its compulsory publication.


3) The risks to which Mankind is subjected by the existence of genetically modified plants and animals will be irreversibly present, since the researches will continue to be made and genetically transformed beings might be set free in nature, as the case may be.

Therefore, it is not the patent that promotes or does not promote the release of these beings, but rather the governmental regulations, for instance, the Biosafety Laws will guide this release.


4) The Biodiversity of the Planet is already threatened anyway, not to say in an advanced state of deterioration. Monoculture, monobreeding, the use of toxic agents released into the atmosphere, the pollution of rivers and seas, all of our ecosystem has already lost much of its diversity, independently of patents in the biotechnological area.

On the contrary, patents can even restore some of what has been destroyed, by the creation, for instance, of genetically transformed bacteria, which eliminate oil stains, plants resistant to noxious weeds, animals resistant to determined diseases, for instance, genetically transformed rats that nowadays allow tests to be carried out for fighting diseases.


5) Poor and rich will always exist on the Earth, since the existence of different individualities is inherent in the human being. This is homodiversity! That the rich exploit the biodiversity and the genetic engineering and thereby supply the poor with means for fighting noxious weeds and diseases is already an enormous advance with respect to the so-called economic unbalance.

By the way, the history of Mankind has shown that these references "rich" and "poor" are highly variable, and whole civilizations that were formerly called "rich" Disappeared And Gave Rise To Other Civilizations That Called "Poor" Today.

Riches Of Emerging Countries

6) The tropical forests, the greatest riches of determined emerging countries, can never be patented, merely because the plants existing therein are not patentable, because they do not represent inventions, but rather mere discoveries.

However, the active principles of these plants will be patentable. Having been isolated by expensive methodology, these active principles will have become medicaments. Many of these active compounds are not used today, because they are entirely unknown to Mankind.

It is important, however, that indigenous populations that hold the knowledge of the healing power of certain plants should also be given benefits resulting from the licenses granted to the patents.


There is a clear line between the good and the evil, drawn by the COMMON SENSE, and this is the line that will guide the ethics in biotechnology.

As shown above, in each statement, be it religious or philosophical, there is always the counterpart that is also true and that guarantees the biodiversity of ideas, of individuals and of the human race.

It is important to preserve this biodiversity with measures in which the COMMON SENSE reigns, rather than the fanatic one-sidedness of some, so that the so-called "globalization" can ultimately serve as the reunion of peoples, rather than the dilution of individualities and countries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions