Independent Media Centre Ireland

Vatican Support for Genetically Modified Food Challenged

category international | environment | press release author Saturday August 09, 2003 12:35author by Devoto

Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD and Assembly member Gerry McHugh, and the party's European election candidate for Dublin Mary Lou MacDonald have questioned the support given by the Vatican for genetically modified food.

Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD and Assembly member Gerry McHugh, and the party's European election candidate for Dublin Mary Lou MacDonald have questioned the support given by the Vatican for genetically modified food.

Deputy Ferris said:

"Both the ethical and scientific arguments against Genetically Modified Food have raged for many years, we the Irish people have never had the opportunity to air these views, and to counter the arguments put by the GM corporations. It was for this reason that we held a press conference on July 29 calling on both the Irish, and 6 county administration, to hold a simultaneous public consultation.

"The arguments for Irish agriculture are straight forward. We are a small country who cannot compete with larger countries in producing bulk commodities, and whatever the large GM corporations say there is no economic benefit for Ireland to grow GM crops. However the debate is much more complex than just economics. It has become enormously political. This can be seen in the way the U S government has endorsed Genetic Engineering, the manner in which President Bush criticised the E U for failing to adopt GM food and the strong link that the current American administration has to GM companies.

Mr McHugh said:

"This political argument has been seen as the main reason Michael Meacher was removed from his Ministerial post to the back benches, for his total opposition to GM food. The Blair government is setting the stage for the formal adoption of GM food later this year. All this comes on the back of the EU decision to adopt regulations on the labelling of GM food and the co-existence guidelines which prohibit national or regional governments from banning the use of GM organisms. This huge political support for GM food is a tremendous boost to the GM companies. They can refer to this support as a benchmark for the safety and the positive benefits which they say Genetic Engineering has.

"But last week possibly the most important and certainly the most symbolic endorsement of GM food came from the Holy See, in which the Vatican stated that GM holds " - the answer to world starvation and malnutrition". The Vatican goes on to say " - that the future of humanity is at stake and that there is no room for the ideological arguments advanced by environmentalists". This argument does not stand up. India has over 300 million undernourished people and yet can produce a grain surplus of 60 million tons. Food surpluses exist throughout Asia so it is wrong to say that G M is need to resolve world starvation.

"How will GM food feed the people of the third world who are currently starving because they cannot access food, food production processes or simply cannot afford to buy it? The GM companies have developed terminator technology to prevent this year's harvested seed, being re-grown next year. They have removed the gene that allows the seed to germinate. This will mean that farmers who have no money now will have to purchase seed every year from the GM company. This seed will also have a patent, which ensures the company have the full economic rights to charge whatever they like.

Mary Lou McDonald added:

"From a consumer perspective, the safety of GM has not been proven. The GM companies will not guarantee that there will be no side affects, and at the same time many scientists have grave concerns about the future impacts on human health. There is no guarantee that the genes from animals transferred into plants will not cross into the human food system.. Indeed the whole process of gene transfer is a very difficult one with no apparent accuracy as to where the gene will attach itself. There are also deep concerns that the inserted gene may produce a protein that is toxic to humans. The GM companies do not have to carry out toxicological tests for each new GM food, and there are no set acceptable daily intakes (ASI's) for G M food.

"Dozens of Non governmental organisation such as Friends of the Earth; and others who specifically work in third world countries, with undernourished children and communities are totally opposed to the introduction of GM. Given the esteem that the Vatican holds, and the influence this decision will have on millions in the developing world we are calling on the leadersof Irelands Catholic population to set out the economic, scientific and environmental reasons for the Vatican decision on GM.

"We are firmly of the opinion that the best way to resolve the needs of the starving is for Europe to lead the world in cancelling the debt of impoverished nations, the UN has estimated that if the funds to pay off debt were diverted into health and education the lives of seven million children a year could be saved. There is also a need for fair trade principles to be established at the forthcoming WTO talks in Cancún in September, so that barriers can be brought down to allow third world countries access to European markets."

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