(NaturalNews) Several Roman Catholic priests and Catholic laymen are seeking to convince some in the Church hierarchy to publicly denounce genetically modified organisms as they prepare to publicly honor a trio of scientists largely responsible for GMO development.
In an open letter to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who is set to honor the three scientists in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 16-18, Brother David Andrews, a senior representative of Food & Water Watch and the Committee on World Food Security, among other groups, says he wants the Church to reconsider:
As you know, the United States government and agriculture giant Monsanto have been seeking the support of the Holy See for genetic modification of food for years.
During my last visit to the U.S. Ambassador Miguel Diaz, just before he resigned, Diaz sung to me the praises of Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, because he supported GMOs. I wonder what you will say, particularly given your leadership of the synod on Africa and the strong advocacy that Monsanto and the U.S. government have for transforming African agriculture through the G-8's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
Monsanto pushing the Vatican for endorsement
In his letter, Andrews says the U.S. has "repeatedly" pushed the Holy See to endorse GMO seeds "as a moral obligation," but that the "policy of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has been to resist officially adopting GMOs."
"While the Academy of Sciences has recurrently hosted one-sided conferences on GMOs in 2004 and 2008, the Holy See formerly has not done so. Cardinal Renato Martino, your predecessor at the justice and peace office, came close but backed off, and you yourself have been quite careful," David writes.
He goes on to say that the U.S. has typically taken the position that the world, and the African continent in particular, has to produce more food, and that the best way to do so is through the implementation and use of GMO seeds, most of which are pushed by Monsanto (one of the three scientists to be honored is a Monsanto executive and the founder of Syngenta Biotechnology).
Most African farmers, however, disagree, David says, "believing instead that agro-ecology is the better way to go: through methods of production more in harmony with their own cultures and traditions, and more realizable by small-scale farmers and women producers."
Continuing, he writes:
In my meetings with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State and Agriculture Departments and congressional staff, this method of production - agroecology, which was endorsed by the United Nations through the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology in Development - is referred to as eco-topian thinking, theology or faith-based reasoning. Yet more than 50 countries endorse that study, conducted by hundreds of scientists and agriculturalists.
U.S. working behind the scenes
He also points out that U.S. farmers have complained that Monsanto owns upwards of 60 percent of the seeds planted in American soil, just to limit the availability of other seeds. He calls that an unhelpful track record on the part of Monsanto, saying also that "the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition fails to provide adequate guidelines for responsible agricultural investment."
"I hope you will speak to the U.S. public about the important issue of GMOs in your World Food Prize address in Des Moines," David concludes.
Other open letters have similarly requested that the Vatican refrain from endorsing GMO seeds.
Says Dr. Brian John, at GMWatch.com: "These open letters reflect the debate within the Roman Catholic church about GMOs and the ongoing diplomatic offensive by the U.S. administration to push the interests of Monsanto and the other biotech multinationals within the Vatican and within the Roman Catholic church generally. The Wikileaks cables gave us some indication of how the US works behind the scenes."
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