GM food good: Vatican in policy switch

The Vatican has moved from a neutral position in a Europe-US confrontation over GM food and will come down in favour of genetic modification in a major report to be released next month.

Truthabouttrade reports the Vatican has stunned opponents of genetically modified foods by declaring they hold the answer to world starvation and malnutrition.

Until Sunday's statement the Vatican had been neutral in the European Union-US confrontation over GM food, the paper says.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the Vatican was preparing an official report on biotechnology, to be published next month, which would come down in favour of genetic modification. The document will coincide with a debate on GM by EU farm ministers.

He said the Pope was greatly interested in new technologies for food development as part of a policy of sustainable agriculture. He noted that 24,000 people died every day from starvation.

Cardinal Martino, who until last year was the Vatican representative at the UN, said he had lived for 16 years in the US "and I ate everything that was offered to me, including genetically modified products. They had no effect on my health. This controversy is more political than scientific."

The Vatican study will argue the future of humanity is at stake and that there is no room for the ideological arguments advanced by environmentalists.

Cardinal Martino said the Pope had been influenced by the growing weight of advice from the Vatican's scientific advisers. "The Pope ardently desires to do something for the billions of people who go to bed hungry every night," he said.

He said freedom from hunger was one of the fundamental rights of man. The Vatican's stand was consistent with its belief in "the right to life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death."

Vatican officials said many in the West had made up their minds about genetic modification while ignoring the benefits to the world's hungry.

Velasio De Paolis, a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, said it was "easy to say no to GM food if your stomach is full."

Scientific progress was part of the divine plan, he said. "The introduction of new and more efficient technologies such as second and third generation GM foods, in harmony with sustainable development, is not a threat but a benefit."

Water gives life: Martino

In another story, Cardinal Martino has delivered a message for an international exhibition, Expo Zaragoza 2008, on the theme, "Water and sustainable development."

In his remarks, Cardinal Martino expressed the hope that the forthcoming exposition "will provide an opportunity to explore and raise awareness of water in the life of the world. This will be important for two reasons. First, the Social Doctrine of the Church recognises the nature of water as life-giving. ... Satisfying the needs of all, especially of those who live in poverty, must guide the use of water and of the services connected with it," he said.

"The second reason takes us back to our faith. At our Baptism, water was used as a sign of cleansing and new life. ... Water is life giving - both physical and spiritual; it is through water that we are invited to share in the life of Christ."

The cardinal also recalled one of the goals of the United Nations' Millennium Development, to halve the number of people unable to access safe drinking water by the year 2015. He pointed out that "clean water and safe sanitation are acknowledged as essential elements in the lives of every human being."


Vatican says GM food is a blessing (Truthabouttrade, 20/5/08)

Vatican expo points out the divine and human dimensions of water (Catholic News Agency, 20/5/08)


Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Cardinal Renato Martino

Expo Zaragoza





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