Used with Care, Biotechnology Can Help Man, Says Cardinal

Sodano Urges Caution, But Sees Great Progress

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Biotechnology should be used to fight world misery and hunger, but “rigorous criteria of caution” are needed to ensure it does not get out of control, says a top Vatican aide.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, offered some criteria for reflection on the ethical use of biotechnology, at a gathering of Coldiretti, the largest Italian association of agricultural workers, which his father helped found.

The cultivation and consumption of genetically modified organisms has generated enormous controversy in recent years, and some anti-globalization movements have expressed their categorical opposition to them.

At the gathering last Friday, Cardinal Sodano reviewed the great progress made in agriculture in recent decades.

He pointed out that the “new resources of science, which are applied in animal and vegetable technologies, must be governed and used to contribute to combating misery and factors of contamination, to improve the production of foods that are necessary especially in poor areas of the world.”

The cardinal warned, however, that this objective calls for “rigorous criteria of caution and control,” in order to avoid “risks to human health” and to be very conscious of the need to preserve “biodiversity,” which is indispensable for “the men of today and tomorrow, as well as for the beauty of the universe and the balance of the ecosystem.”

In this connection, the Italian cardinal mentioned, as a guide, the book “Animal and Vegetable Biotechnologies, New Frontiers and New Responsibilities” (“Biotecnologie animali e vegetali, nuove frontiere e nuove responsabilità”), published by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.

Technologies, “like any other resource stemming from science and man´s ingenuity, must not be demonized, but rather used for the common good of all men,” the cardinal emphasized.

Given “these new emergencies,” he concluded, “states and the international community will have to be provided with adequate legislative norms in the perspective of a new phase of law, defined as ´bio-law,´ which, above all, must defend human life and preserve the biosphere.”

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