To regulate is necessary, to prohibit never

It is necessary to have legal and ethical instruments which permit scientific progress

The sufficient supply of healthy foodstuffs, the prevention and control of sicknesses and the harmonious survival of mankind in the different ecosystems, are, no doubt, the greatest challenges of science at the present moment. Therefore, keeping in mind the principle that all the efforts of science are set towards an improvement in the life of mankind, the limits of science are much more turned towards the questions of the good use of technologies than for the establishing of a “cap” limit for scientific advancement.In this manner, the scientific effort of the researcher must go along with the constant concern of demonstrating to society how technology is being developed and how it will be inserted into the productive sector or into the clinic. And also, explain which of the mechanisms, of the techniques, of the parameters which are being observed in the monitoring of the technology.

An adequate explanation is fundamental for society. The specialized press could contribute in a decisive manner translating the language of the “academia” to clear journalistic language. It is of no use passing on to society the attribution of the control of the good use of technologies if the people are not informed about the question. The new unknown provokes fear and the common and more convenient attitude is to prohibit or to declare an halt in research instead of supporting the researchers and raising the capacity of interpretation of society.

For each new scientific event disclosed it is possible to observe a series of law initiatives prohibiting everything even before one understands better what is being looked at through the research. It took only, in March, to have the announcement of the birth of the calf Vitória, of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the first animal originating from the technique of nuclear transference in our laboratories, for the return of the possible laws prohibiting cloning in general. We are in favor of the regulations on the part of society in the accompanying of scientific developments and in the good use of technologies.

The strategy adopted by Brazil concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with the creation of the National Technical Commission of Biosecurity, is a good example, as the errors identified in Law No 8,974 of the 5th of January 1995, may be avoided in a new bill. The important thing, nevertheless, is that on this commission there are representatives of different segments of society and there is a democratic space for the discussion of the proposals of activities with GMOs.

It is up to an enlightened society to decide upon the priorities and to the researcher the election of the methods andofits limits. In the case of a lack of good sense, society itself neutralizes unethical and money making initiatives. As a reflection, it is important that we personally include ourselves in the context of the analyzed problem, for having an opinion about the problems of others is much easier.

Finally, we must analyze the enormous scientific progress achieved by Brazil over the last few years, the fruit of various initiatives of the support and encouragement and of the capacity of innovation and articulation of Brazilian human resources. It is only the beginning and for this reason it is necessary to discuss and to define the legal and ethical instruments which will permit scientific progress and the good progress of citizenship. It would be a mediocre attitude to “freeze” scientific progress at this moment so important for Brazilian science.

Dr. Rodolfo Rumpf is a researcher with Embrapa’s Genetic Resources and Biotechnology and the coordinator of the project which was able to carry out the first cloning of a calf in Brazil