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Vatican GM conference condemned (11/9/2004)

1.Catholics codemn GM conference
2.Conference details - The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology
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1. Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Casina Pio IV, V-00120 VATICAN CITY
TEL. 39 06 6988 3195 FAX 39 06 6988 5218
E-MAIL academy.sciences@acdscience.va

USA Embassy to the Holy See
TEL 06 4678 3433 EMAIL RothTurnleyAE@stste.gov

We write about the conference on "The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology" to be held September 24, 2004 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, organised by The Pontifical Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the USA Embassy to the Holy See.

We have major concerns with this conference :
1. The Danger of Scandal - Your Conference poses a likely repeat of the 2003 Vatican scandal caused by the less than circumspect words of Cardinal Martino and resulting worldwide media reports on the possibility of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace giving its endorsement to Genetically Modified (GM) Foods;

2. Other Voices on GM - Your Conference lacks representation by Bishops' Conferences and Catholic agencies working directly with the hungry and malnourished of the world but also opposed to GM food solutions, for example, from Southern Africa;

3. Biased Agenda - The skewed agenda of your Conference is an epistemological problem in itself, epistemology being a concern according to the Academy's statutes. The agenda presumes a moral imperative for using GM foods, and further, the last agenda item suggests that any opposition to the pro-GM position propagates myths. Myth in ordinary English is a pejorative word that means something wrong and supported by the stupid, a usage well known to USA Embassy staff;

4. GM Corporation Lobby - The presence at your Conference as a speaker of Dr C.S. Prakash, an avowed lobbyist for international GM corporations, gives a forum for a powerful Public Relations coup. As a balance, screening the Canadian documentary "The Corporation" to launch your Conference would put his contribution in context;

5. Respect for all Living Things - The topic of respect for the integrity of creation is not on your Conference agenda, a grave omission, yet it is intimately connected with your Conference deliberations for both moral and spiritual reasons: a) the crossing of genetic material between unrelated species is presumptous. The long-term consequences of manipulating life-forms are not know and the precautionary principle as used in health issues should be invoked; b) the creation and proliferation of vectors for the genetic engineering process creates a greater likelihood of viruses crossing species ; c) both the manipulation of life-forms the consequent patenting of life is abhorrent to most cultures, especially those with a spiritual worldview. (We note that the Statutes of the Institute were approved in 1976, before much of the scientific knowledge on GM emerged, and before substantive moral pronouncement on Life by our Pope, the Catholic Catechism and Conferences of Bishops. The perspective of the Academy as expressed in its Statutes may need updating in light of recent Catholic moral and spiritual on respect for Life.)

6. Ultimately Poverty is at the root of Hunger and Malnutrition - Credible groups of scientists and economists maintain that 800,000 million people are hungry because they live in poverty, not because there is not enough food in the world. In fact, the push from GM crops by a small number of powerful countries and companies is driven more by financial profit than a desire to feed the hungry.

In Australia, a coalition of secular and religious people have had some success in opposing companies who promote GM food stuffs. The well funded Public Relations campaign of bio-technology corporations is powerful, even buying off farming leaders and scientists with promises of research grants. Poor developing countries do not have the resources or expertise to mount such opposition. It would be a tradgdy if Catholic Church leaders abandoned these poor countries.

We believe that the introduction of GM crops and food stuffs on the pretext of feeding the hungry and malnourished is wrong, raising serious moral and spiritual issues. The push for GM foods, we believe, constitutes an escalation in social sin, disregards the integrity of creation and gives another reason for disappointment to the Creator.

Could you please register our opposition to any endorsement of genetically modified crops and foods by any Vatican body, including the Pontifical Academy of Science.

Yours in the Risen Christ

Mrs Anne Lanyon, Convenor, Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice.
Staff members: Rev. Charles Rue, Rev. John Evans, Rev. Brendan Hoban

REFERENCES

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http://vatican.usembassy.it/Policy/Events/biotech.asp
-Sean McDonagh, The Vatican and GE Food (Genetically Engineered). The document is attached.
-Desmond Nicholl Introduction to Genetic Engineering
second edition, UK: Cambridge Press 1994/2002;
This book carries one grave warning - be careful about the use of Ti plasmaids as vectors in gene transfer technology as they are more than likely to prove to be uncontrollable resulting in dangerous viruses jumping species.
-Yves Tourte Genetically Modified Organisms:
Transgenesis in Plants, Enfield, USA: Science
Publications (French original) 2003.
-Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 17 January 2001.
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2.Join the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See
at a conference presented in cooperation with
the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
http://vatican.usembassy.it/Policy/Events/biotech.asp

Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology

Friday, September 24, 2004
The Pontifical Gregorian University
Piazza della Pilotta, 4
Rome, Italy

8:30 am - 1:15 pm; 3:00 pm - 5:30 pm

According to the United Nations, one person dies from hunger and malnutrition every six seconds -- nearly 15,000 every day. As many as 1.5 billion worldwide, mostly in developing countries, suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The magnitude of these avoidable deaths should challenge everyone to take steps to alleviate this crisis. At the beginning of the 21st century, mankind has the ability to create crops that resist extreme weather, diseases and pests, use less water, require fewer chemicals, and are more nutritious than conventional crops. Scientists the world over have attested that these genetically modified, biotech foods could be a crucial element in the fight against hunger in the developing world. The world's needs and the potential of this proven new technology give rise to a moral imperative to investigate ways in which genetically modified foods can help the poor.

Among many who have spoken out on the subject is the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which has argued that intellectual property rights "should not inhibit wide access to beneficial applications of scientific knowledge." The Academy has also called for closer study of ways to facilitate cooperation between the public and private sectors in the development of this modern genetic technology that can help promote solidarity and justice between the industrialized and developing worlds.

This conference will bring together prominent scientists, leading experts in humanitarian relief and agricultural development in the developing world, and farmers working with biotech foods to explore the potential of genetically-modified organisms to address hunger and malnutrition. We hope to share the experience of the experts with concerned individuals like you. Please join us in examining how biotechnology can contribute to protecting human life and promoting human dignity.

Speakers will include:

Rev. Gonzalo Miranda, L.C., Dean of the School of Bioethics, Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, Rome

Dr. Piero Morandini, Professor of Genetic Biotechnology, Department of Biology, University of Milan

Dr. Prabhu Pingali, Director of the Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

Dr. C.S. Prakash, Professor, Tuskegee University, Alabama, U.S.A.. Founder and President of AgBio World Foundation.

Dr. Carl Pray, Professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, U.S.A. Director of the Department of Agricultural Food and Resource Economics, Graduate Program.

Dr. Peter Raven, Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and Engelmann Professor of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis, U.S.A.

Sessions will examine:

The Current State of the Global Food Crisis;

The Theological and Moral Case for Biotech Food;

Scientific Advances in Biotech Crops;

How Developing-World Farmers Have Used Biotech Crops;

and Debunking the Myths of Biotechnology.

Simultaneous translation will be provided. No reservations required.

For media inquiries call:
Amy Roth Turnley
Public Affairs Coordinator
U.S. Embassy to the Holy See
06.4674.3433 / RothTurnleyAE@state.gov

For more information call:
06.4674.3425/8

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