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Pope hints at thumbs-down for GM food

In a message for Saturday's World Food Day, Pope John Paul II stressed the need for biodiversity, suggesting reservations about the production of genetically modified foods.

The US Embassy to the Holy See has recently been lobbying the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to secure Vatican endorsement for GM foods. Church experts, including Irish Columban environmentalist Fr Sean McDonagh have cried foul, accusing the US Government of profiteering under the guise of fatuous claims that GM food is the solution to world hunger.

Catholic World News reports on the Pope's message, titled Biodiversity at the Service of Food Security, was addressed to Jacques Diouf, the director of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Biological diversity, wrote the Holy Father, is needed to ensure the supply of a wide variety of foods, and also to preserve the rights of farmers engaged in widely different types of agricultural progress. He also said that that mankind has a "God-given duty of stewardship over creation", and our respect for the created world should forbid "challenges to the natural order".

"Unfortunately there are today many obstacles that are placed in the part of international action undertaken to safeguard biodiversity," the Pope writes. He calls for a proper balance between the rights of developers and those of societies, arguing that control of "the resources present in different ecosystems cannot be exclusive nor can it become a cause for conflict."

Catholic World News suggests the Pope's emphasis on preserving diverse crops, and his argument against monopoly control of different food products, "could be interpreted as cautions against an overly energetic development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for agricultural purposes".

Although the Vatican has indicated sympathy for GM food production as a means of alleviating food shortages, Catholic experts have argued that reliance on the technology would put control of food supplies in the hands of a few powerful corporations, and that it fails to recognise the inextricable link betweek world poverty and world hunger.

Anne Lanyon of the Columban Centre for Peace Ecology & Justice in Sydney said in a statement ahead of Saturday's World Good Day: "Hunger and poverty have more to do with social injustice than with access to genetically engineered super seeds. The world produces enough food for everyone, yet 840 million people suffer malnutrition and about 1.2 billion people endure extreme poverty trying to live on less than US $1 per day."

The Pope's message concludes with the observation that solidarity is the key to proper development of agricultural resources. Solidarity, he explains, should be understood as "a model of unity capable of inspiring action by individuals, governments, international organizations and institutions and all members of civil society," united to promote the common good of their society and their world.

Pope urges preserving diversity in food production (Catholic World News 15/10/04)

Pope says preserving biodiversity is concrete way to fight hunger (Catholic News Service 15/10/04)
Message for World Food Day focuses on biodiversity (Vatican Information Service 15/10/04)
Message of Pope to FAO director general on World Food Day (Missionary Service News Agency 15/10/04)
Biotech multinationals worry Columbans on World Food Day (CathNews 15/10/04)
On World Food Day & International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - Concern about Multinational Biotech Organisations! (Columban Centre for Peace Ecology & Justice 14/10/04)
Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice
Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology (The United States Embassy to the Holy See)
World Food Program: Hunger Facts
Society of St Columban (USA): Justice Peace & Integrity of Creation - From the JPIC Office
Vatican to listen to corporate GM promotion (Network of Concerned Farmers 13/9/04)
Genetic Engineering and Agriculture (National Catholic Rural Life Conference USA)
Annan Calls for Green Revolution to Feed Africa (Planet Ark 6/7/04)
Biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor? (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation)
US lobbies Vatican on GM food and world hunger (CathNews 27/9/04)
John L. Allen: World hunger and biotechnology debated (National Catholic Reporter 24/9/04)
Columbans warn Vatican against GM food solution to world hunger (CathNews 15/9/04)
Sean McDonagh, SSC: The Vatican and GE Food
Sean McDonagh, SSC: GE Food - Feeding the Hungry
Columbans appeal to Vatican: "Say NO to GM Foods!" (Online Catholics 15/9/04)

US asks Vatican to endorse GM food plants ( 10/10/04)

Thousands turn out for Pope (Associated Press/National Nine News 17/10/04)
Tenacious Pope marks 26th anniversary (Reuters 16/10/04)
XXVI Anniversary of election to papacy of Pope John Paul II (Missionary Service News Agency 16/10/04)
John L Allen: John Paul opens the Eucharistic Year (National Catholic Reporter 15/10/04)
John Paul II Renews Universal Call to Holiness (Zenit 15/10/04)
The Churches of Asia join the Pope in celebrating 26 years of pontificate ( 16/10/04)
Pope Says World Racked by Violence, Terrorism, War (Reuters 18/10/04)
Pope Thanks Followers on 26th Anniversary (Reuters 17/10/04)
Pope urges sacredness in Year of the Eucharist launch (The Tablet 16/10/04)

18 Oct 2004