ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  9 November 2000


This is particularly interesting, given that this powerful call for a moratorium from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference is being made to a government which has been by far the most gung ho in Africa in respect to GM crops.

As the article notes, tens of thousands of hectares in South Africa have been planted with GE crops. And famously, out of 23 delegates from African countries to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the South African was the only one who didn't sign up to the declaration on the subject of GE in food and farming which stated, “We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us.”

The Southern African bishops clearly join in that objection.

*  *  *

Church Calls For Moratorium On Genetically Engineered Food
Panafrican News Agency -8 November 2000 -Cape Town, South Africa

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Wednesday expressed its concern over the utilisation of Genetic Engineering or GE technologies in agriculture and food production. Tens of thousands of hectares in South Africa have been planted with GE crops.

Modified maize and cotton are already commercially produced, while soybean, potato, tomato, apple and canola are in a trial phase.

The Rev. Wilfred Napier, archbishop of Durban, said GE is an imprecise technology and that the long-term health effects of consuming GE food have not been assessed.

“Scientists are warning that new allergens, carcinogens and toxins may be introduced into foods,” he said. “Moreover, the damage to the environment would be largely irreversible. Once released, genetically engineered organisms become part of our ecosystem.”

He added that another major issue posed by the transgenic crop technologies is the cross-pollination of neighbouring non-GE crops due to pollen drift.  This pollution could result in the eradication of biodiversity in areas bordering genetically modified crops.

“Because we do not know whether there are any serious risks to the environment or human health, to produce and market genetically modified food is morally irresponsible. The precautionary principle should apply, as it is done in medical research,” he said.

He called on the government to introduce a five-year freeze on genetic engineering, in support of the campaign launched by the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering.

We agree that a five-year period is the minimum time needed to implement stringent safety tests on GE foods and to thoroughly research the health, safety and environmental impacts of GE crops.

“During this time the import and export of GE foods and crops as well as the patenting of seeds for food and farm crops should be stopped,” Napier said.

He also urged the government to introduce compulsory labelling of GE food and sign the international Protocol on Biosafety which requires that countries exporting genetically modified organisms provide, in advance, detailed information to the importing country.

“Greater concentration of ownership inherent in the new technologies, and laws drawn up to protect them, is set to repeat and worsen one of the great mistakes of the green revolution. More dependence and marginalisation loom for the poorest.  The inability to contain genetic material once released into the environment means that even field trials of new crops are tantamount to uncontrolled, irreversible experiments and invasions of the global commons.”

Christian Aid - Selling Suicide: farming, false promises and genetic engineering in developing countries

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