The Vatican and GMOs


A 2009 WikiLeaks cable from the US embassy in the Holy See reports that “Vatican officials remain largely supportive of genetically modified crops as a vehicle for protecting the environment while feeding the hungry, but – at least for now – are unwilling to challenge bishops who disagree”.

That the primary purpose of GMOs is not in fact to safeguard the environment is suggested by, inter alia, a 2012 study by Washington State University research professor Dr Charles Benbrook, who found that the proliferation of such crops has caused an increase in the use of hazardous pesticides in the US.

As for the claim that GMOs are a proper antidote to the problem of global hunger, it’s worth reviewing renowned environmental activist Vandana Shiva‘s observation that “[o]ne billion people are without food because industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture and their food entitlements”.

The following sound bite from Shiva’s appearance last year on the BBC’s HARDtalk meanwhile obliterates the notion of any positive correlation between the GMO industry and human wellbeing:

“We see the consequences of [seed patenting] in India, where, since the big companies came in and took over the seed supply – especially in cotton – we have had 270,000 farmer suicides, most of them driven by debt and the debt caused by high-cost nonrenewable seeds.”

GMOs find god

In a nod to the existence of less-than-cheery visions of the biotech scene, the US embassy cable notes that Monsignor James Reinert of the Vatican Council of Justice and Peace has tempered a reportedly general ecclesiastical consensus on the need for GMOs with one caveat:

“The Vatican cannot force all bishops to endorse biotechnology, he said, particularly if their opposition has to do with concerns over protecting profits of large corporations who hold the patents for the crops, versus feeding the hungry.”

Undeterred, the US ambassador concludes the cable with a pledge to “continue to lobby the Vatican to speak up in favor of GMOs, in the hope that a louder voice in Rome will encourage individual Church leaders elsewhere to reconsider their critical views”.

Nothing like a bit of diplomatic pressure to ease the travails of US-based biotech firms. So much for the separation of corporation and state.

To be sure, the US embassy is not the only source of encouragement when it comes to sanctification of GMOs by the Holy See. In a March 2013 article in USAToday – which at first glance appears to be a fine work of satire – New Jersey biotech farmer John Rigolizzo, Jr pronounces the Vatican at the “vanguard of science and technology” based on a 2009 statement by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences affirming a “moral imperative to make the benefits of genetically engineered technology available on a larger scale to poor and vulnerable populations”.

After reviewing his own credentials as a Catholic, Rigolizzo touts GM crops as “miraculous” and “a blessing” and expresses his hope that the newly appointed Pope Francis will share the Vatican’s established “humane vision – and that Europe and the rest of the world [will] join biotechnology’s growing flock”.

Working in the new pope’s favour, presumably, is that he is “not only a man of faith, but also science – a chemist, by training”, and that he hails from Argentina, “whose farmers rely heavily on GM crops”.

Dealing with the devil?

What, then, has holy science offered the homeland of Pope Francis? Some clues appear in “Argentina’s Bad Seeds”, an Al Jazeera documentary coincidentally released on the same day as Rigolizzo’s epistle.

Filmmaker Glenn Ellis outlines Argentina’s conversion into a genetically-modified “soy republic”, a process that has produced a “dirty war in the north of the country where campesinos are being driven off their land, and sometimes killed, to make way for soya plantations”.

The majority of the seeds are manufactured by US-based Monsanto and are marketed as Roundup Ready – Roundup being Monsanto’s signature glyphosate-based herbicide. That human beings might not be similarly “Roundup Ready” is suggested in Ellis’ summary of the film:

“… [D]octors and scientists claim that babies are being born with crippling birth malformations and that in recent years the incidence of childhood cancer has soared. It is a phenomenon, they say, that has coincided with the introduction of Monsanto’s seed.”

Of course, the 2009 US embassy cable approvingly remarks that “[t]he Vatican’s own scientific academy has stated that there is no evidence GMOs are harmful, and that they could indeed be part of addressing global food security”, while Rigolizzo swoons over the Vatican’s “advanced and charitable view of how to defeat hunger and malnutrition”.

Such arguments become even more ludicrous when we consider the rampant absorption of farmland by GM crops for the production of biofuels rather than food.

Ultimately, any effort to cast the GMO industry in a humane light amounts to nothing less than sacrilege.

Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, Salon, The Baffler, Al Akhbar English

Follow her on Twitter: @MariaBelen_Fdez

Advertisements

About Old Boy

Love the past and the future but live in the present

Posted on June 26, 2013, in Big Pharma, buisiness, environment, Food, Health, politics, SCIENCE and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

FilmBunker

Saving you from one cinematic disaster at a time.

Wonders in the Dark

Cinema, music, opera, books, television, theater

Just Reviews

Just another WordPress.com site

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

conradbrunstrom

Things I never thunk before.

News from the Boston Becks

The life and times of Erik, Veronica and Thomas

The Silent Film Quarterly

The Only Magazine Dedicated To Silent Cinema

Leaden Circles

First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.

Klaus Kreimeier HOME

THE WORLD FILM HERITAGE 1895-1915

SOURCE247

Breaking News, Sports, Entertainment, Movie, TV, Tech, Gaming , Lifestyle and more Trends.

My Archives

because the internet is not forever

CineSocialUK

Up to the minute, fair, balanced, informed film reviews.

PUZZLED PAGAN PRESENTS

A Shrine to Pop Culture Obsessiveness. With Lots of Spoilers

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be” – Peter DeVries

thedullwoodexperiment

Viewing movies in a different light

Twenty Four Frames

Notes on Film by John Greco

Suzanne's Mom's Blog

Arts, Nature, Family, Good Works, Luna & Stella Birthstone Jewelry

It Doesn't Have To Be Right...

... it just has to sound plausible

NJ Corporate Portrait Photographer Blog

The life of a corporate portrait photographer who likes to shoot just about anything.

arwenaragornstar

A French girl's musings...

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)

Australian based film fan - like Margaret and David, just a little younger

Octopus Films

A place for new perspectives on films, TV, media and entertainment.

scifist 2.0

A sci-fi movie history in reviews

The Reviewer's Corner

The Sometimes Serious Corner of the Internet for Anime, Manga, and Comic Content

Ready Steady Cut

Your favorite movie site's new favorite movie site

First Impressions

Notes on Films and Culture

1,001 Movies Reviewed Before You Die

Where I Review One of the 1,001 Movies You Should Watch Before you Die Every Day

Movies Galore of Milwaukee

Movie Galore takes a look at Silent films on up to current in development projects and gives their own opinion on what really does happen in film!

mibih.wordpress.com/

Anime - Movies - Wrestling

Gabriel Diego Valdez

Movies and how they change you.

The Horror Incorporated Project

Lurking among the corpses are the body snatchers....plotting their next venture into the graveyard....the blood in your veins will run cold, your spine tingle, as you look into the terror of death in tonight's feature....come along with me into the chamber of horrors, for an excursion through.... Horror Incorporated!

Relatos desde mi ventana

Sentimientos, emociones y reflexiones

Teri again

Finding Me

Gareth Roberts

Unorthodox Marketing & Strategy Blog

leeg schrift

Taalarmen

100 Films in a Year

12 months. 100 films. Hopefully.

Morcan Books & Films

The site for a new perspective on books and films

humhist

thoughts and thinking

Cinematic Architecture

An Inquiry on the meaning of cinematic for architecture and in architecture

IMPREINT journal

The official bulletin of the artist IMPREINT created to repost excerpts from 'En plein air'.

shadowplay

david cairns

%d bloggers like this: