Guest Lecture
ONA Fokushalle and
Territorial Design in Histories, Theories, and Projects

Tomatoes Talk, Birch Trees Learn—Do Plants Have Dignity?Florianne Koechlin

Plants communicate with each other and with other organisms, through scents. They send out SOS-signals, warn each other, attract beneficial insects, coordinate their behaviour. They build up multiple relationships with other organisms. They remember past events, learn from experience. So plants are not “living automatons,” just following their genetic program and always reacting the same way. What are the consequences of this new way of seeing plants? Do they have dignity, even rights?

FLORIANNE KOECHLIN, born in 1948, is a Swiss biologist and chemist. In the 1980s she played a key role in the protest against the planned construction of the Kaiseraugst nuclear power plant and was one of the founding members of the Basel appeal against genetic engineering. In 1995 she played a leading role in founding GENET, a Europe-wide network of NGOs critical of genetic engineering. In January 1999 she founded the Blueridge-Institute, which deals with the “critical assessment of genetic engineering projects and developments” and of which she is the Managing Director to this day. She explores new scientific findings about plants and other living beings (particularly communication between plants and their use of networks) and new concepts for agriculture and research strategies for this purpose. Her task is the translation of expert knowledge into concepts that are easily understood by the general public. She is also a non-fiction author dealing primarily with the subjects of genetic engineering, epigenetics, plant communication and the ethical implications of modern biology. She also paints.