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Vatican opens talks on GM foods

Yesterday the Vatican invited scientists, health experts, UN officials and farmers' groups to a conference on genetically modified foods, which some Vatican officials have said could help alleviate world hunger.

The two-day symposium "GMO: Threat or Hope" was organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which is headed by Cardinal Renato Martino, who has spoken out about the potential benefits of biotech foods. Opponents of GM technology were also invited to speak.

Pointing out that world hunger is an issue of conscience for all, Cardinal Martino has suggested the Vatican might consider endorsing biotech crops as a way to help alleviate world hunger.

"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 such a large part of humanity," he told Vatican Radio.

Such endorsement would be strongly resisted in Europe, which has imposed a moratorium on growing or importing GMOs, and in African countries such as Zambia, which has rejected biotech food aid. But it would be supported by the USA, where biotech companies have invested heavily in the technology.

Meanwhile Pope John Paul II has told the Pontifical Academy the Sciences that scientific research is "illogical and morally contradictory" when it involves the destruction of human embryos.

In a speech prepared for yesterday's 400th anniversary of the founding of the Academy, the Pope pointed to the gross inconsistency involved in a process that claims to protect human life, but destroys the lives of human embryos in the process. He firmly condemned any such destructive research, and insisted that the tissues needed for research should be derived from adults, or other sources that do not require the destruction of embryos.

Vatican opens talks on biotech foods (Associated Press/Globe and Mail)
Embryo research involves moral contradiction, Pope observes (Catholic World News)

Vatican Debates Genetically Modified Organisms (Zenit)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Pope condemns stem cell research (Associated Press/USA Today)
Bid to outlaw baby screening (The Universe)
U.N. Folds on Cloning Ban (Zenit)
Vatican believes GM food could solve world hunger (5/8/03)
Vatican to Get Experts to Assess Crops (AP)
Pope likely to give blessings to GM food (Bangkok Post)
Indian bishop warns on GM as crop fails (7/4/03)
Vatican official says GM food "no big deal" (18/12/02)
Genetically Modified Food: The Impending Disaster Statement of the Catholic Bishops of South Africa (14/11/01)

11 Nov 2003