It appears the jury is still out as to whether the Church has taken — or will take — a stand on genetically modified (GM) crops.
At first it seemed the Vatican was for it. According to The Independent, a leaked document from a group of 40 scientists who are linked to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences said Church leaders thought it was a moral duty to accept GM food to combat the global hunger problem:
Their report came to several conclusions, including the need to develop new agricultural techniques to feed the present world population of 6.8 billion people, some one billion of whom are undernourished. Perhaps the most striking conclusion was that GM technology is contributing towards addressing the challenges of unsustainable agriculture and that there is “nothing intrinsic” about GM crops that would make food unsafe.
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However, earlier this month, several Vatican spokesmen said the report does not speak for the pope or the even the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
“The statement is not a statement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences because the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as such — 80 members — wasn’t consulted about it and will not be consulted about it,” said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the academy’s chancellor.
The article goes on to say that some who attended the meeting were unhappy with the statement, and at least one African bishop highlighted the potential for GM technology to be “a technological yoke that ensures poor farmers in Africa are reliant on Western seed companies.”
He’s certainly right about that.
It’s worth noting that a number of the scientists at the meeting (and on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) are well-known advocates of GM crops, including Professor Peter Raven, the retired president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, who is connected to the leading GM crop company, Monsanto.
We’ll see if the Church takes a stand one way or another.