Columban calls for Catholic stand on GM food

The use of new genetic engineering technologies in the production of food crops poses unknown health risks, Columban Fr Charles Rue says, in a call for an informed Catholic voice on genetically modified foods in the lead up to the NSW election.

In a statement issued this week, the Columban Missionary Society says it is concerned that a future NSW Government will lift its moratorium on the commercial growing of genetically modified food crops in the state.

The legislation is up for review in 2008. The Australian Federal Government has no such ban and is only being restrained by legislation in the various states, the Columban statement says.

"Catholics have rightly defended human life when it comes to therapeutic cloning," says Fr Rue, who is coordinator of the Australian Columban Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation program.

However, Fr Rue said, "an understanding of the dangers to life inherent in bio-technology's scientific processes also applies to foods containing genetically modified ingredients."

Fr Rue warned against the dangers of deregulating the industry, saying that the risks to humans and environment are long term.

He says genetic engineering technology is new and imprecise and there are also also risks connected with gene technology spreading into the wider environment.

Fr Rue also said that, as in the medical field, an understanding of the unjust legal appropriation of life forms by biotech companies adds to ethical concerns.

"Pope John Paul II wrote about social sin which is the sin of introducing an unjust system into society so as to exploit people," Fr Rue says.

"Using international agreements and US-style patenting laws, bio-tech companies are systematically gaining control of the human food chain. Under new copyright law, companies claim ownership of God given life forms from the level of the gene up," he claims.

Saying that transgenic food is an issue for the 2007 NSW elections, Fr Rue calls for an informed Catholic voice to be heard prior to a planned review in 2008 of the present NSW Moratorium on the commercial growing of transgenic crops.

Poor should not pay for climate change

Meanwhile, responding to a Federal Government proposal to ban incandescent light globes, St Vincent de Paul Society policy and research manager Gavin Dufty said the Federal Government could ease the transition by offering subsidies in the form of discounts on presentation of pension cards at the counter, GST exemptions or through an extra payment in the utility rebate.

"For a person on a low income, $8 is significant. It could cover a fortnightly payment for a utility bill," Mr Dufty told the Age.

"In the longer term, the new bulbs may be cheaper but the pay-back period for households on low incomes will be too long."

Genetically Modified Foods and the NSW State Elections 2007 (Media Release, Columban Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Australia, 19/2/07)
The glass ceiling (The Age, 21/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Columbans Australia | Fr Charles Rue (Columbans)
Genetic Engineering

21 Feb 2007