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Rift between Vatican, African bishops over genetically modified food?

September 30, 2009

A recent conference in Rome touting the benefits of genetically modified seeds may point to a division between the Vatican and African bishops over the use of genetically modified food. Praising “seeds that have been improved by techniques that intervene in their genetic makeup,” Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste, who served as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 2001 until earlier this year, called traditional African agricultural methods “outdated and inadequate.” Archbishop Crepaldi’s view clashes with the position of African bishops who worry that the use of genetically modified seeds will make Africans dependent upon the foreign corporations that make those seeds. The working document of the upcoming Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops notes:

Farm workers, on whom a great part of the African economy depends, are victims of injustice in marketing their products. They are often paid a very low price for their goods. Paradoxically, in some parts of Africa, the cost is even set by the buyers themselves. Populations already suffering from a disadvantage are thereby further impoverished. The seeding campaign of proponents of Genetically Modified Food, which purports to give assurances for food safety, should not overlook the true problems of agriculture in Africa: the lack of cultivatable land, water, energy, access to credit, agricultural training, local markets, road infrastructures, etc. This campaign runs the risk of ruining small landholders, abolishing traditional methods of seeding and making farmers dependent on the production companies of OGM. Furthermore, the problem of climate change, whose effects are being felt in arid areas, is compromising the modest gains of African economies. Will the synod fathers be able to remain unresponsive to these questions weighing so heavily on the shoulders of their countrymen?

 


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