BackgroundThe dawn of a new millennium has brought advances in scientific knowledge on many fronts, including the field of genetics. In 2003, the Human Genome Project1 was completed, and the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data(2) and the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights(3) were adopted. These stand as international points of reference in the field.
These advances in science impact the corporate community on issues of bioethics, patents and licensing, appropriate use of genetic data, individual choice, and respect for diversity, to name a few(4).
ELCA Social Policy"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) believes in one God, who created in the beginning, who creates now, and in whom all things, visible and invisible, hold together (Colossians 1:3–20). We confess that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will redeem all that has been, is, and will be—including human choices involving genetic knowledge and its application(5)." These choices create issues regarding the relationships between human power and life on this planet and call for discernment of God's will with respect to genetic developments. The ethic of respecting and promoting the community of life with justice and wisdom in the pursuit of genetic knowledge and its use is essential if the web of life on earth is to flourish. In terms of regulation and best practices, the social statement, Genetics, Faith and Responsibility (adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in August 2011), calls for development and implementation of protocols for assessing long-term, ecological, social, and economic impact studies (Section 4.5 and 4.7).
In addition, the twelfth Churchwide Assembly in 2011 reaffirmed the commitment of this church to the social policy resolution, "Genetically Modified Organisms in the Food Supply"6 (ELCA Church Council action CC04.11.57). This resolution coheres with the call for using the social statement's deliberative framework, lifting up justice principles such as sufficiency and sustainability, or themes such as stewardship and livelihood for all as guidance.
Corporate ResponseThe Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), with participation from the faith and the socially responsible investing communities, has been addressing multinational corporations concerning genetic issues. Groups have sought transparency through reports on the impacts on people in least developed countries where genetic knowledge and technology are used. Good corporate stewardship in this area begins with disclosure that articulates a vision, outlines policies, and provides measurement of impact for efforts in the field of genetics.
Social Criteria Investment ScreensNo social criteria investment screens currently apply to this paper. As research institutions and corporations around the world become involved in human reproductive cloning, a new social criteria investment screen will need to be developed.
Issue Specific Resolution Guidelines for ELCAWe support reports reviewing a company's policies for food products containing genetically engineered ingredients.
We support reports asking a company to identify the risks, financial costs (including opportunity costs) and benefits, as well as environmental impact of the use of genetically engineered food products it sells or manufactures.
We support reports on a company's internal controls related to potential adverse impacts associated with genetically engineered organisms, including post-marketing monitoring, removing seed from the ecosystem, and risk management for different geographical environments.
We support reports on the adequacy of corporate policy, plans, and strategies to address changes in consumer attitudes toward nutrition, quality, and safety of genetically engineered foods.
We support reports providing evidence of independent long-term safety testing that demonstrates genetically engineered crops are safe for humans, animals, and the environment.
We support reports on the impact of genetically modified food on least developed economies and their food resources.
We support calls to a corporation to discontinue any research into human reproductive cloning.
General Resolution Guidelines for ELCAWe support a company having an independent chair or independent lead director.
We support reports on policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures (both direct and indirect) made with corporate funds.
We support reports on any portion of any dues or similar payments made to any taxexempt organization that is used for an expenditure or contribution that might be deemed political.
We support guidelines or policies governing a company's political contributions and expenditures.
Adopted by Church Council, April 2012 (CC12.04.09)