An Independent take on the Pope’s GM position

Is the Catholic Church in favour of GM crops?
Lab Notes
By Steve Connor
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Is the Vatican close to endorsing the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in order to feed the world’s growing population? Could it be that the Catholic Church is about to take a moral position on GM food?
A leaked document from a group of scientists linked to Rome has set a hare running about the possible endorsement of GM technology by the Pope. The document, from scientists linked to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, suggested that there is a moral duty to adopt GM technology in order to combat hunger.
More at link: Is the Catholic Church in favour of GM crops?

Written by David Tribe

David Tribe’s research career in academia and industry has covered molecular genetics, biochemistry, microbial evolution and biotechnology. He has over 60 publications and patents. Dr. Tribe's recent activities focus on agricultural policy and food risk management. He teaches graduate programs in food science and risk management as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Melbourne.

5 comments

  1. David, Friends,
    The ‘leaked’ document cited by the newspaper was in fact not leaked, but rather, an intentional release of documents exactly two weeks before The Independent article appeared.
    Also, there’s leaks, and then there’s Wikileaks. And an article far more accurate. [1] I would know, I was a participant in the Vatican Study Week.
    Fact is, the Pontifical Academy has existed in one form or another since about ca. 600, as the very first academy of world scholars. It has always been independent of the Vatican, and likely always will.
    I personally am sure that I will not see the Vatican take any position on GM crops during my lifetime. Given the final Statement of the participants of the study week, the Pope would find a great deal of justification for the use of GM crops to *oppress* subsistence farmers, but I consider that to be a long shot. The only way to oppress subsistence farmers with GM crops is to *deny* them the use of GM crops. Which is not a misuse of GM crops per se. Very unlikely to happen as I see it.
    But, bottom line, if you think the Vatican now taking any stand whatsoever on GM crops is ‘the news’, then there isn’t any news. 40 scholars and scientists had their say. The Pontifical Academy said nothing, and the Vatican said nothing. And that’s it!
    ————-
    1. Leaked cables confirm Pope’s distance from GMO debate and limited stance on bioethics, thepeoplesvoice.org,
    http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2010/12/12/leaked-cables-confirm-pope-s-distance-fr

  2. having personally constructed the headline mentioning the Pope’s name as a catchy way of labelling this story, I feel it is right for me to explicitly acknowledge that yes indeed, it can be a misrepresentation to interpret this story as an official position of the Holy See.
    That’s the journalistic conundrum for you: you can be boring and accurate or attempt to be zippy and be subject to correction.
    GMO Pundit

  3. Sorry, David.
    I meant to be informative only, but wasn’t enough so. The statement that « the Statement cannot be considered… » seems to be a ‘diplomatic’ move to appease the well known vocal quarters, « Following requests for clarification on the publication of the final Statement of the Study Week… »
    Wikileaks has two pieces of interest at:
    …://www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/11/09VATICAN119.html
    …://www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2005/08/05VATICAN514.html
    It is most interesting to compare these with the interpretation given in the article referenced by Andrew Appel.
    Fact is that the latter article linked to …://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/06/09VATICAN78.html, but failed to do so to the more relevant ones I quoted above. My interpretation: if the facts do not match with the theory, conceal the facts!
    The 2009 cable says in the summary: « Meanwhile Vatican officials remain largely supportive of genetically modified crops as a vehicle for protecting the environment while feeding the hungry, but — at least for now — are unwilling to challenge bishops who disagree. »
    I read elsewhere something like « this Pope will/may surprise us ». I tend to agree.
    In the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate he wrote: “The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well”.
    The World Food Summit statement said: « The Church does not wish to interfere in political decisions: she respects the knowledge gained through scientific study, and decisions arrived at through reason responsibly enlightened by authentically human values, and she supports the effort to eliminate hunger. This is the most immediate and concrete sign of solidarity inspired by charity, and it brooks neither delay nor compromise. Such solidarity relies on technology, laws and institutions to meet the aspirations of individuals, communities and entire peoples, yet it must not exclude the religious dimension, with all the spiritual energy that it brings, and its promotion of the human person. »
    The final Statement of the Study Week on “Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development” feeds the above statements.

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