POPE'S OPPOSITION TO GMOs - BIG IMPACT PREDICTED
This article reports an even stronger significance to the statements of papal concern on agbiotech reported previously and predicts a potentially major impact on Catholics particularly in developing countries:
Pope John Paul II said that using genetically modified organisms to increase production was contrary to God's will.
...the new point of view from the Holy See could mold attitudes in Catholic regions such as Latin America and parts of Africa. "In many parts of the world, the Pope's views on a wide variety of subjects are taken far more seriously than their own government's views or the results of any scientific survey," Turner [ a leading Rome food safety consultant] told BNA on Nov. 13.
The statements apparently represent a change for the Vatican, which
had previously said it was not opposed to some forms of biotechnology if
the science helped feed poor countries and was not misused.
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Regulation, Law & Economics No. 221 Wednesday November 15, 2000 Page A-6 ISSN 1523-567X
Biotechnology - Pope Expresses Opposition to GMOs -Cites Need for 'the Respect of Nature' By Eric Lyman
Copyright © 2000 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.
VATICAN CITY- In a call that could have an impact on farming techniques in predominantly Catholic parts of the developing world, Pope John Paul II said that using genetically modified organisms to increase production was contrary to God's will.
Speaking Nov. 12 to an estimated 50,000 farmers from Italy and elsewhere at a special outdoor mass dedicated to farmers, the Pope told them and their colleagues worldwide to "resist the temptation of high productivity and profit that work to the detriment of the respect of nature."
The pontiff added that "when (farmers) forget this basic principle and become tyrants of the earth rather than its custodians ... sooner or later the earth rebels."
Furthermore, the Pope said, if modern farming techniques "don't reconcile themselves with the simple language of nature in a healthy balance, the life of man will run ever greater risks, of which already we are seeing worrying signs." He did not specify the signs.
Though experts said that the impact of the Pope's statements on were likely to have a limited impact in developed countries, where attitudes toward biotechnology were already well developed, the comments could have an influence in the developing world.
Heart Turner, a Rome food safety consultant formerly associated with the World Food Programme and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, said that the new point of view from the Holy See could mold attitudes in Catholic regions such as Latin America and parts of Africa.
"In many parts of the world, the Pope's views on a wide variety of subjects
are taken far more
seriously than their own government's views or the results of any scientific survey," Turner told BNA on Nov. 13.
The statements apparently represent a change for the Vatican, which had previously said it was not opposed to some forms of biotechnology if the science helped feed poor countries and was not misused. When contacted by BNA on Nov. 14, a spokesman for the Vatican declined to elaborate on John Paul II's statements.
John Monyo, the head of the biotechnology section at the United Nation's Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, told BNA on Nov. 14 that the statements could give ammunition to secular groups opposed to bioengineering.
"The impact like of something like this is very difficult to estimate, but I would not be surprised to find the statements being used to support the views of non-religious groups," Monyo said. "Groups already opposed to genetically-altered products will now be able to say that even the Pope supports their views."
Italy's Green Party, which has long opposed the use of genetically modified organisms in Italy and elsewhere, issued a short statement dated Nov. 14 applauding the Pope's statements.
But in Italy itself, the impact is expected to be minimal since the country is already one of the most conservative countries in Europe in terms of the use of GMOs. Prime Minister Giuliano Amato has repeatedly acted to tighten restrictions on the use of genetically altered food products, and the moves so far seemed backed by public opinion.
In August, for example, Italy banned four kinds of genetically modified corn and then refused to eliminate the ban a month later when the European Union said the corn was safe. That case is on hold pending a decision whether an EU member state has the right to impose standards stricter than those from the EU even when there is no published evidence that the products may be harmful.
The FAO's Monyo said it was important that statements from the Vatican not affect the policies of world governments. "One thing most experts agree on is that government policy should be secular," he said. "Individuals can believe what they choose and be influenced by who they choose, but it is important governments to stay clear of adopting views (only because they are) put forth by one religion or another."
A spokesman for the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, which already takes
a generally anti-GMO stance on most issues, told BNA on Nov. 14 that it
had no plans to adjust its policies as a result of the Pope's statements.
An official with the testing division at the University of Bologna, which
tests privately-developed GMOs for safety, also said that the comments would have no impact on the group's activities.
The Nov. 12 religious service for farmers is part of special Holy Year
activities called for by John Paul to mark the start of Christianity's
third millennium. A wide variety of professions have had special religious
services held in their honor at the Vatican City.