Brazilian Catholic Bishops on GMOs (12/8/2003)

Some more Catholic bishops that the US/Monsanto lobby of the Vatican, and its good friend, Archbishop Renato Martino will be keen to silence.

For more such voices from around the world:

for the background:
Brazilian Catholic Bishops on GMOs

06 May 2003 -- Bishops of the Pastoral Land Commission (of Brazil) express their opposition to the use of GMOs - Concerned about the latest developments in relation to GMOs, the Bishops of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB in Portuguese), accompanied by the Pastoral Land Commission, wrote a letter describing the damage to health caused by such products.  They call attention also to the loss of food sovereignty implied by the use of GMO seeds.  The document was delivered to the President of the House, Joao Paulo Cunha, in the ceremony commemorating the tabling of the proposal to establish a military base in Alcantara.

The text of this document follows:


We, the Bishops accompanying the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) from the diverse regions of the National Conference of Bishops (of Brazil), confronted by the grave problem of GMOs in our country and supported by current legal dispositions, take the initiative to make a declaration on this issue.

GMOs are the result of genetic manipulation, which permits the production, alteration and transference of genes between living beings, breaking the natural barrier between non-species crosses, creating, altering and transferring genetic material between vegetables, animals, bacteria, viruses and human beings.

All over the world and here in Brazil many investigators and also social leaders have formulated, in an opportune way, serious concerns in relation to this issue.  These worries revolve around the following risks:

1st.- In relation to human health, the ingestion of genetically modified grains and beans can provoke an increase in allergies, antibiotic resistance and an increase in the indices of toxic substances in foods.

2nd.- In the environment there is the risk of genetic erosion, irreversibly affecting biodiversity, by means of contamination of the natural stores of seeds (germ plasma banks).  Added to this is the alarming increase in the use of monocultures and the consequent loss of the rich variety and quality of our seeds.

3rd.- GMOs also threaten the food sovereignty of our country, by means of the loss of control of the seeds and living organisms by the patenting of these, thereby converted into the exclusive and legal property of transnational groups with only commercial interests.

4th. - The greatest risk, nevertheless, as we understand it, is the total dependency resulting from the destruction and finally disappearance of the small and even medium scale production and commercialization of seeds, which are subsumed under the domain of a small group of giant and powerful transnational corporations.

In relation to these questions, on the other hand, we cannot ignore or leave aside the ethical requirements such as beneficence, social justice, ecological justice and the precautionary principle.

In principle, beneficence implies our duty to avoid or resist evil or harm done to others.  In the case of the massive introduction of new technologies that imply potential risks to health, this principle needs to be fully guaranteed by means of clear and trustworthy information. The principle of social justice, in cases of massive technological innovations of a high social impact, leads us to question who will benefit and who will be harmed.  Now, in the concrete case of the GMOs it is clear that a small group of large corporations will be the greatest beneficiary, with grave damage for the family farmer.

The principle of ecological justice imposes the duty to preserve the environment for present and future generations.  GMOs represent a serious ecological risk.

The precautionary principle requires that before liberating any product for human consumption, that strict norms of biosecurity be adopted. This is not an issue of impeding science or scientific inquiry, nor of provoking paranoid fears in the face of something new.  On the contrary, science and inquiry need to have their space defended and oriented for the common good.  Technological applications that imply potential risks on a large scale, need be decided upon, approved, denied or perfected on the basis of democratic decisions and under public control.

Supporting the heroic struggle of popular organizations from the countryside and in echo with the great issues discussed in the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, with thankfulness we defend the understanding that seeds be declared the common inheritance of humanity and preserved in their genetic integrity by farming communities.

Along this same line, we freely recommend to Public Powers, the Minister of the Public Affairs, the Legislature, the Judicial branch and the Executive Brand that, as they make decisions on these grave questions, they be oriented by these new vindications, as well as by the ethical principles that underlie them.

Itaici, May 6, 2003
Bishops Accompanying the Pastoral Land Commissions
Mons. Tomás Balduino, Presidente
Mons. Xavier Gilles, Vice-Presidente
Mons. Orlando Dotti
Mons. Ladislau Biernaski
Mons. Pedro Casaldáliga
Mons. André de Witte
Mons. José Alberto Moura,
Mons. Guilherme Werlang
Mons. Heriberto Hermes
Mons. José Mario Streher
Mons. Moacir Grecchi
Mons. José Agusto da Rocha
Mons. Maurício Grotto
Mons. Apparecido Josť Dias


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