Volume Focuses on Genetically Modified Organisms

What Scholars Said at 2003 Closed-Door Session

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ROME, DEC. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A new, Italian-language volume gathers the addresses of speakers who attended a Vatican-promoted, closed-door session on the topic of genetically modified foods.

The volume, entitled “GMOs, Threat or Hope?” (“OGM: Minaccia o Speranza?”) and published by ART, includes the addresses of scientists, farmers, ministers and theologians, who attended a meeting in Rome in November 2003, organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Its objective was to evaluate, from an ethical point of view, the production and use of genetically modified seeds.

In the introduction, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, emphasizes that the idea of the seminar arose from “a profound and essential exigency of the religious and moral mission of the Church,” which desires to “illuminate with the light of the Gospel all that refers to human development and the affirmation of human dignity.”

“The Church does so respecting the natural law, taking advantage of the results of scientific research, updating the message of the sacred Scriptures, and applying the principles of its social doctrine,” the cardinal writes.

Cardinal Martino states that the Book of Genesis reveals that “in the Creator’s plan, created reality, good in itself, exists as province of the human person.”

“The dominion of man over all other living beings, however, must not be despotic or senseless. On the contrary, he must cultivate and take care of the goods created by God, goods that man has received as a precious gift, placed by the Creator under his responsibility,” the Vatican official continues.

Man’s task is to cultivate, not to destroy. “To cultivate means to intervene, decide, do, not let plants grow at random. To cultivate means to empower and perfect, so that fruits will be better and more abundant. To cultivate means to order, clean and eliminate what destroys and ruins. To cultivate is the best way to look after,” the cardinal stresses.

The book includes critical and favorable points of view regarding the use of genetically modified organisms.

Father Gonzalo Miranda, dean of the School of Bioethics at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, explains that “some people think that genetic manipulation of living beings is, in itself, by its very object, an ethically reprehensible act, inasmuch as it tends to alter what is natural.”

The priest quotes John Paul II, who held that “in the delicate field of medicine and biotechnology, the Catholic Church is not at all opposed to progress”; rather, “science and technology are a wonderful product of human creativity which is a gift of God, given that they have made marvelous possibilities available to us, of which we benefit with a grateful spirit.”

More critical is Father Roland Lesseps, director of the Theological Reflection Center of Lusaka, Zambia, who says that, from his point of view, “genetic manipulation is not in accord with the social doctrine of the Church.”

The book is the latest of the documents referring to biotechnologies, published by an organization of the Holy See.

In 1999, the Pontifical Academy for Life published a detailed study on “Vegetable and Animal Biotechnologies” (Vatican Publishing House). In February 2001, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences published a report on “Genetically Modified Plants for the Production of Food.”

In the chapter on the environment, the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church dedicates a section to biotechnologies.

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