Vatican: No Official OK for Genetically Modified Potato

Church Decries Hunger, Doesn’t Offer Technological Solution

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ROME, MARCH 4, 2010 ( After the European Commission approved Tuesday the commercial cultivation of a genetically modified potato, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper clarified that the Church has no official position on the practice of modifying the genes of produce.

The commission’s approval of the Amflora potato is only the second OK its given to genetically modified crops; in 1998 it approved a modified maize strain.

The Amflora potato was developed by the German chemical company BASF, and it is high in starch content. The potato is not designed for human consumption, but rather for manufacturing products such as paper and glue.

The European Commission’s approval of the potato has fanned the debate about the eventual effects of genetically modified organisms on human health. The Amflora potato in particular has a gene that is resistant to antibiotics.

L’Osservatore Romano clarified in an article for today’s edition that some reports have suggested a hypothetical Vatican approval of the GM potato.

“There has been talk of an explicit ‘yes’ to the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, confusing once again personal commentaries of ecclesiastics with ‘official’ statements attributed to the Holy See or the Church,” L’Osservatore Romano explained.

The Vatican daily instead cited Benedict XVI’s “Caritas in Veritate,” where the Pope says that the “Church does not have technical solutions to offer” but does “have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation.”

This mission includes the condemnation of world hunger, which the Holy Father asserts is “not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional.”

Proponents of GM organisms propose them as a solution for hunger (though not in the particular case of the Amflora potato).

However, the L’Osservatore Romano article observed that “it is no accident that precisely in 2009 — a year in which in the developing countries GMOs have grown by 13%, as opposed to a world average of 7%, covering almost half of the cultivated surface of the planet with transgenic plants — the number of hungry in the world for the first time exceeds one billion.”

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