Re: Who's got at the Pope? (6/8/2003)

Here are some of the voices that the US/Monsanto lobby of the Vatican, and its good friend, Archbishop Renato Martino are trying to silence.

You can see The Times article 'Vatican Hails GM Food as a Saviour' and Paul Goettlich's accompanying image at:

1.Church joins anti-Bt corn drive
2.Philippines: Catholic Church fights GM crop
3.Church Leader Urges Use of Safe Alternatives to GMO
4.Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference Wants Moratorium On GM
5.Zambian Jesuit Centre - Zambia shouldn't be pushed into accepting GMOs
6.Canada's Catholic Church Concerned About GMOs
1.Church joins anti-Bt corn drive
Business World, March 20, 2003
Allen V. Estabillo
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (Central Mindanao) -- The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is firming up its opposition to the impending distribution of United States-based Monsanto's genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn by sending at least one million signatures to the Malacañan presidential palace.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA), chaired by Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, is intensifying the one-million signature campaign.
The CBCP has a seat, represented by Bishop Gutierrez, in the government's oversight committee for the controversial biotechnology crop. Sister Susan Bolanio, chairperson of the justice and peace desk of the Diocese of Marbel, said the signature campaign is now gaining headway throughout the country.
"The awareness and opposition to this biotech crop is overwhelming and we hope the government will yield to the voice of the people," said Ms. Bolanio, who is leading the gathering of at least 100,000 signatures in the Diocese of Marbel that covers this city, Koronadal, South Cotabato and Sarangani.

Source: Agnet
2.Philippines: Catholic Church fights GM crop
Church continues battle vs genetic-modified food
By Villamor Visaya Jr.
Inquirer News Service, November 19, 2001 [shortened]

ILAGAN, Isabela -- The war over genetically modified organism (GMO)-laced crops and coal mining in Isabela is far from over.

Roman Catholic Church leaders led by Bishop Sergio Utleg of the Diocese of Ilagan and priests in 35 towns and two cities in the province renewed their campaign against Bt-corn farming and coal mining.

In a pastoral letter read during last Sunday,s Mass in churches in the province, Utleg said Bt-corn farming and coal mining have been denying "the blessings of life for millions of people."

"The church is not against development and modern technology. Rather, we want to ask our people and leaders: For whom is development? Who is to benefit from these so-called development projects and modern technology? Development must serve the needs and promote the progress of all people," Utleg said.

Fr. Gregorio Uanan, chancellor of the Diocese of Ilagan and leader of the Anti-GMO Multi-Sectoral Alliance of Isabela, assailed the Monsanto-Philippines for disclosing that Bt-corn has recorded a "high yield" in its field tests in Alinguigan 2nd in Ilagan, Carulay in Echague town, and Villaluna in Cauayan City, all in Isabela.

Monsanto is the leading proponent of Bt-corn field tests in the country.

"Naturally, it has a high yield at first . . . but eventually the corn borer gets immuned, as researches say, and farmers would end up losing income," Uanan told the INQUIRER.

[Bishop] Utleg said Bt-corn "does not promote the general welfare of the people nor solve the problem of poverty."

"There are credible scientists who tell us that it is toxic and that it can contaminate other corn varieties through cross-pollination," he said.

The Catholic Church has accused Monsanto, a United States-based agricultural company, of trying to impose a monopoly of the corn industry throughout the world.

"The solution to poverty and low productivity is genuine land reform and nationalist industrialization," Utleg said.

He called on legislators to pass a law outlawing Bt-corn field trials.

©2001 www.inq7.net all rights reserved
3.Church Leader Urges Use of Safe Alternatives to GMO
Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 12, 2001

Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin has urged the use of safe alternatives to genetically modified organism (GMO) in the country in a pastoral statement issued amid claims of agrochemical firms the technology has church backing.

"Genetic engineering is acceptable only if all risks are minimized," he said. "Otherwise, one may easily succumb to temptations of productivity and profit at the expense of the people and the environment."

The archbishop's statement echoed Vatican's latest position on this biotechnological issue that sharply divides scientists and researchers all over the world.

Speaking before an estimated 50,000 farmers from Italy and elsewhere at a special outdoor mass for farmers, Pope John Paul II said on November last year that using GMO to increase farm production was contrary to God's will.

"As long as foreseeable dangers are not fully identified, studied and avoided, safe alternative procedures should be used," said the influential archbishop of Manila. "(I)f none, testing and development of the technology should be delayed altogether."

In a bid to win over support of the predominantly Catholic populace of the country, the proponents of GMO use in public fora and promotional materials the old Vatican statement endorsing genetic engineering to improve living conditions of farmers.

Sin said "certain experiments and marketing strategies may have detrimental effects on different areas of human existence, such as health and safety, environment and biodiversity, culture, consumers rights and proper distribution of food and earnings."

There is still no consensus among scientists worldwide over the issue of the technology's safety, and failures in many GMO farms cast doubts on the efficacy of it.

Current field testing in the country will not respond to safety queries as they are confined on proving the effectiveness of the technology.

Farmers decry meanwhile that modern biotechnology will simply tighten the grip of agrochemical firms on agriculture with GMO seeds patented to global food and chemical giants.

"While technology merely asks, 'can it be done?, ethics on the other hand brings us one step farther and asks, 'if it can be done, should it be done?'" said Sin in the statement obtained by the Inquirer.

Through genetic engineering, natural and conventional processes of improving traits of living organisms are now being abandoned for the still infantile technology.

By manipulating genetic makeup in an organism, characteristics could be altered or modified in a process that transcends species boundaries.

As such, genetic engineering represents awesome, God-like powers to create, change and direct evolution of all life, from microorganisms to human beings.

Transnational firms Monsanto and Pioneer have been conducting open-field testing of genetically engineered Bt corn in Mindanao while experiments on transgenic rice varieties by the International Rice Research Institute are awaiting approval of the Philippine biosafety regulatory agency.

The Macapagal-Arroyo administration vowed to hold broad consultations on the issue amid calls of civil society groups for a moratorium of GMO open-field experiments in the country.
4.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.
Tuesday 10 September 2002 11:27 am

Dr. Lawrence J. Goodwin
Africa Faith & Justice Network
[email protected]


The Africa Faith & Justice Network, a USA-based NGO comprised of Catholic religious and social justice groups, denounced USA policies of imposing genetically modified (GM) food aid on southern African countries facing severe drought and famine.  Dr. Lawrence J. Goodwin, representing AFJN at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, stated, "This tactic blatantly benefits agri-business, not poor and hungry people." Echoing the analysis of many NGOs at the summit, he said, "The USA could have paid to mill the American maize, as southern African governments requested, or purchased organic grain to send to the drought-stricken region, instead of insisting on shipping GM whole grain knowing that local farmers would plant it."

Goodwin, who worked in Africa for 10-years, expressed dismay at USA moves to use the desperate situation in southern Africa for its own market advantage.  "Africans have consistently rejected GM grain.  Now pollen from the genetically altered maize will contaminate local varieties, which USA companies expect will ultimately make local farmers dependent on corporate seeds and herbicides," he said. "Corporations can claim patent rights over farmers' crops that have been  polluted by the GM plants, which will only lead to African smallholder farmers losing control of their seeds, crops, and perhaps of their land itself."  By planting GM seeds, African countries will also lose access to their primary export market, Europe, causing long-term devastation to their struggling economies.

AFJN has worked for 20-years on economic justice for Africa and spent the last 2-years urging the USA Government to support African farmer and community rights.  In November 2001 it was instrumental in the introduction of a House of Representatives resolution upholding African community prerogatives to access, save, use and breed seeds and crops as opposed to corporate actions to own and control them.

"The USA wants to see its corporations control life's most basic resources, including seeds, food crops and water," Goodwin said. "Unfortunately for southern Africa, the drought plays right into this unprincipled strategy."

E-mail [email protected]  Website http://afjn.cua.edu
6.Canada's Catholic Church Concerned About GMOs
Montreal Gazette, November 30, 2002

Seeds of discontent:
Canada's Catholic Church is concerned that agribusiness is taking control of genetically modified crops at the cost of poor farmers around the world

Maxime Laplante is worried about what genetically modified foods may do to you if you eat them - but that's not his No. 1 concern about them.

As the owner of a small mixed farm in Quebec, he is even more concerned about smaller farmers losing control over their own production. He is worried that agribusiness companies will press farmers into using modified seed and other products - and then make it hard for the farmers to stop using them.

Laplante is general secretary of the Union Paysanne, founded last year to promote human-scale farming in Quebec. As such, he is sometimes consulted these days by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the international-development arm of Canada's Catholic Church, which is concerned about farming trends internationally. Laplante said in a telephone interview that even farms that concentrate on meat and animal products, like his farm near Lotbiniere, on the St. Lawrence south shore about 50 kilometres west of Quebec City, are vulnerable.

Whether it's a canola farmer prosecuted by a big company because seed from its genetically modified canola turned up on his land - this has happened on the Prairies - or the legal threats that might be posed by a patented goat, for instance, the basic dangers are the same.

Concerns like this have been the focus of a campaign this fall by Development and Peace.

Just over a week ago, as International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew toured Africa on a trade mission, 63 boxes containing 180,000 petition postcards addressed to him were delivered to Parliament Hill.

The petition urged the federal government to take a public stand against the patenting of living organisms, especially seeds.

Development and Peace staff said the patenting issue affects small-scale farmers in the African countries Pettigrew was visiting. They said these farmers' food security is threatened by World Trade Organization negotiations on intellectual-property rights that could allow the patenting of life forms, including the seeds that traditional farmers have developed over generations.

Roger Dubois of Winnipeg, president of Development and Peace, said the concept of international property rights should not apply to matters essential to humankind, like farmers' right to own the seeds they use.

Development and Peace also fears that trade negotiations conducted by some arms of the federal government could undermine efforts by others to support agriculture in developing countries.

The Catholic agency noted that Canada was one of four chief negotiators at a World Trade Organization meeting on international property rights last Monday in Geneva, where the controversial issue of TRIPS - trade-related aspects of intellectual-property rights - was on the agenda. (The other negotiators were Japan, the United States and the European Union.)

Dubois estimated that 1.4 billion people in the world depend on farm-saved seeds for their livelihoods.

"For centuries these seeds have been freely saved, exchanged and sold," he said. "The WTO's TRIPS agreement currently endangers farmers' rights to continue these practices."

He said that patents have already been taken out on five main food crops: rice, wheat, maize, soya and sorghum. Six multinational corporations control almost 70 per cent of these patents.

"Farmers who grow patented crops may have to sign contracts and pay royalties to the patent holder to use their seeds, thus jeopardizing their livelihoods," Dubois said.

Development and Peace has two big campaigns each year to raise money for international development. In leaflets distributed for this year's fall campaign, they argued that millions of families in some of the world's poorest countries survive by saving and exchanging their own seeds.

Development and Peace says farmers are often pressured to stop using traditional seeds by government programs offering free seed or advertisements promising higher yields.

However, seeds from crops grown from these seeds cannot be harvested and replanted without a fee. The crops also require costly pesticides and fertilizers.

Development and Peace cites examples from around the world, including the plans of three big companies to plant genetically modified and patented white corn in South Africa.

White corn is central to the diet of millions of Africans, Development and Peace argues, and the companies' plans have prompted fear that prices will rise, threatening families too poor to pay more.

Yet the South African government is spending millions to promote biotechnology.

"Seeds and all living organisms are our collective heritage," Dubois said. "The Earth belongs to all, and life should never be for sale."

For more information about the campaign, go to www.devp.org
5.Aug 2002, Zambian Jesuit Centre - Zambia shouldn't be pushed into accepting GMOs

Zambia shouldn't be pushed into accepting GMOs - JCTR

By Bivan Saluseki ZAMBIA should not be pushed into accepting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) crops without examining their overall impact over the agricultural sector, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) economic and social development research project co-ordinator Muweme Muweme has said.

Muweme yesterday said the government is acting wisely and courageously in the face of this challenge by slowing down its acceptance of GM maize. Muweme said Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) and the JCTR feel the risks associated with accepting genetically modified relief maize into the country is highlighted in terms not only of health concerns but also of serious impact on the infrastructure of Zambian agriculture.

KATC director Paul Desmarais said the Zambian government must not give in to the pressures exerted by offers of GM maize before adequate study is done and effective precautions taken.

Desmarais said he is aware of the need to empower small scale farmers who are the producers of the bulk of Zambia's food crops to produce sustainably. "This means promoting a farming system that uses low external inputs and makes greater use of natural resources found at farm level, including seed," said Desmarais.

According to JCTR, the present food shortage situation in Zambia and other parts of this region must not be dealt with in ways that will give rise to even greater problems in the future. " Much more in-depth examination by government officials, members of parliament and civil society is required," said Muweme.

According to a study jointly undertaken by KATC and JCTR, the possible introduction of GMOs into the country has many serious risks that must be thoroughly investigated before any decisions are taken. Bernadette Lubozhya, an agro-scientist conducting this study, cautioned that genetically modified crops are likely to bring many long-term problems, such as lower yields, increased herbicide use, erratic performance and poor economic returns to small scale farmers.

Lubozhya said there would be a loss of European markets for Zambian products such as fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables, tobacco, coffee and organic products, because the European Union bans GMOs. She said GMOs would bring potential environmental problems such as insect resistance, contamination of wild plant relatives to our domesticated crops, greater use of chemicals, less bio-diversity, and harmful mutations that can cause diseases.

The study showed that GMOs would have a negative impact on the informal seed sub-sector, which supplies 85 per cent of planting seed to the 75 per cent of the farming community in this country. Another concern, according to Lubozhya, is that some GM crops that might come to Zambia have been modified in a manner that makes them more dependent on pesticides. She cited the example of the use elsewhere of Roundup Ready Soybeans, which are dependent on Roundup herbicide. "Both the seed and the herbicide are owned by the same corporation," she said. Lubozhya said it is the overall impact on the infrastructure of the agricultural sector in Zambia that must be looked at in this debate on importation of GM maize.

She said concern about the health consequences of consumption of GMOs is certainly valid, but it was also not the only point at issue at this moment. "For officials from the United States to say that they have eaten GMOs without bad effects is certainly no argument at all for ready acceptance of GMOs into Zambia," Lubozhya said.

"We currently have no capacity to evaluate, monitor and sustain the health risks posed by GMO products, at the very moment that the global market is pushing for healthier food products." JCTR director Fr. Pete Henriot commended agriculture and co-operatives minister Mundia Sikatana for acting in a responsible fashion at a very difficult moment.

"Stating that Zambia has to prudently evaluate the current offer, especially in the light of discussion of a National Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy, is a very positive stance that we endorse," he said.

Fr. Henriot said there is an OAU African model legislation that could be very helpful for Zambia to follow as it writes its Biosafety Policy. The African model protects the rights of local communities, farmers and breeders, and provides for regulation of access to biological resources. JCTR has warned that as extremely serious as is the food shortage today, it could be even more serious tomorrow if Zambia blindly accepted GMOs that have the potential to undermine Zambia's sustainable agricultural infrastructure.
Jose Bove said Monday any Vatican endorsement of biotech crops would be "scandalous": "I believe that St. Francis, if he were living today, would have something to say about this stance of the Roman shepherds," he told the Turin daily La Stampa, referring to the saint who lived in communion with nature.
"Almost everything scientists are trying to achieve by genetically modifying crops can be achieved in other less risky ways. Whether the problem is pest or weed control, drought tolerance, yield or nutrition, there are countless, though poorly supported, farming methods that can be used before needing to open pandora's box of genetic tricks. GM advocates seem only to have discovered the cause of poverty eradication now that they have something to sell." - Andrew Simms
World hunger needs a simple solution rather than hi-tech GM food

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