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Vatican report fuels GM debate within the Catholic church

Catholic leaders in developing countries are reportedly worried about GM technology and the contents of a Vatican statement expected to come down in favour of FM foods as a possible solution to world hunger.

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace president Archbishop Renato Martino told Vatican radio: "The problem of hunger involves the conscience of every man. For this reason the Catholic church follows with special interest and solicitude every development in science to help the solution of a plight that afflicts humanity."

Head of the MISNA missionary news agency, Comboni missionary Fr Giulio Albanese, described Archbishop Martino's comments as an act of provocation. He warned that issues such as property rights for GM seeds "cannot but accentuate the dependence of the poor nations on the rich ones".

Catholic bishops in the Philippines are also wary of GM crops, and have urged the government there to carry out more research before granting GM authorisations.

"We have to be careful, because once it is there, how can we remedy its consequences?" said Cardinal Ricardo Vidal.

The Pope himself appears to support a cautious approach, having previously stated that GM agriculture could not solely be assessed on the basis of "short term economic interests", but should be subject to "a rigorous scientific and ethical process of verification".

Cordis News

Vatican official to advise Pope on genetically modified food (3/7/03)
GM Food Will End Hunger: Vatican: Genetically Altered Crops Part of Man's Dominion Over Nature, Church Says (Biotech Knowledge Centre)
USDA Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology (International Forum on Globalisation)
Indian bishop warns on GM as crop fails (7/4/03)
Vatican official says GM food "no big deal" (18/12/02)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

21 Aug 2003