Cardinal Sin's Statement
PASTORAL STATEMENT ON GENETIC ENGINEERING IN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila
In the beginning God gave mankind the gift of intelligence to be used, among other things, to collaborate with him in caring for creation. Today this collaboration with the creator is also evident in the advances of science and technology. The Church has always valued such progress, but has likewise made the necessary precautions so as not to lose sight of the true context in which it is situated.
Thus, after noting that 'basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man's dominion over creation', the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that 'science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits' (no. 2293).
The quest for knowledge and dominion always brings with it certain ethical questions. For indeed, while technology merely asks, 'can it be done'?, ethics on the other hand brings us one step further and asks, 'if it can be done, should it be done'? The answer to the latter can only be in the affirmative if what is being contemplated is truly for the good of the human person. A concrete case that needs examination is genetic engineering applied to agricultural products. Along with the noble desire to combat hunger, poverty and disease in developing and applying such technology, scientists have the task of protecting the rest of creation from all possible harms that ensue. In fact, concerns have already been raised that certain experiments and marketing strategies may have detrimental effects on different areas of human existence, such as health and safety, environment and biodiversity, culture, consumers rights, and proper distribution of food and earnings.
Genetic engineering is acceptable only if all risks are minimized. Otherwise, one may easily succumb to temptations of productivity and profit at the expense of the people and the environment. And as long as foreseeable dangers are not fully identified, studied and avoided, safe alternative procedures should be used, or if none, testing and development of the technology should be delayed altogether.
May the Lord of the harvest bless us with an abundant yield, and may our Creator continue to guide our intelligence. May the advancement of science and technology be always a true collaboration with God's work of providence.
Villa San Miguel, 8th day of May 2001.
PHILIPPINES - CHURCH LEADER URGES USE OF SAFE ALTERNATIVES TO GMO;
Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin has, according to this story, urged the use of safe alternatives to genetically modified organism (GMO) in the country in a pastoral statement issued amid claims of agrochemical firms the technology has church backing, stating, "Genetic engineering is acceptable only if all risks are minimized. Otherwise, one may easily succumb to temptations of productivity and profit at the expense of the people and the environment."
The story says that the archbishop's statement echoed Vatican's latest position on this biotechnological issue that sharply divides scientists and researchers all over the world.
Speaking before an estimated 50,000 farmers from Italy and elsewhere at a special outdoor mass for farmers, Pope John Paul II was cited as saying on November last year that using GMO to increase farm production was contrary to God's will.
The influential archbishop of Manila was quoted as saying, "As long as foreseeable dangers are not fully identified, studied and avoided, safe alternative procedures should be used. (I)f none, testing and development of the technology should be delayed altogether."
The story says that in a bid to win over support of the predominantly Catholic populace of the country, the proponents of GMO use in public fora and promotional materials the old Vatican statement endorsing genetic engineering to improve living conditions of farmers.
Sin was further quoted as saying, "certain experiments and marketing strategies may have detrimental effects on different areas of human existence, such as health and safety, environment and biodiversity, culture, consumers rights and proper distribution of food and earnings."
The story adds that there is still no consensus among scientists worldwide over the issue of the technology's safety, and failures in many GMO farms cast doubts on the efficacy of it.
JUBILEE OF THE AGRICULTURAL WORLD
Saturday, 11 November 2000
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to be able to meet you on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Agricultural World, for this moment of celebration and reflection on the present state of this important sector of life and the economy, as well as on the ethical and social perspectives that concern it.
I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, for his kind words expressing the sentiments and expectations of all those present. I respectfully greet the dignitaries, including those of different religious backgrounds who are representing various organizations and are present this evening to offer us the contribution of their testimony.
2. The Jubilee of farmers coincides with the traditional "Thanksgiving Day" promoted in Italy by the praiseworthy Confederation of Farmers, to whom I extend my most cordial greetings. This "Day" makes a strong appeal to the perennial values cherished by the agricultural world, particularly to its marked religious sense. To give thanks is to glorify God who created the land and its produce, to God who saw that it was "good" (Gn 1: 12) and entrusted it to man for wise and industrious safekeeping.
Dear men and women of the agricultural world, you are entrusted with the task of making the earth fruitful. A most important task, whose urgent need today is becoming ever more apparent. The area where you work is usually called the "primary sector" by economic science. On the world economic scene, your sector varies considerably, in comparison to others, according to continent and nation. But whatever the cost in economic terms, plain good sense is enough to highlight its real "primacy" with respect to vital human needs. When this sector is underappreciated or mistreated, the consequences for life, health and ecological balance are always serious and usually difficult to remedy, at least in the short term.
3. The Church has always had special regard for this area of work, which has also been expressed in important magisterial documents. How could we forget, in this respect, Bl. John XXIII's Mater et Magistra? At the time he put his "finger on the wound", so to speak, denouncing the problems that were unfortunately making agriculture a "depressed sector" in those years, regarding both "labour productivity" and "the standard of living of farm populations" (cf. ibid., nn. 123-124). In the time between Mater et Magistra and our day, it certainly cannot be said that these problems have been solved. Rather it should be noted that there are others in addition, in the framework of new problems stemming from the globalization of the economy and the worsening of the "ecological question".
4. The Church obviously has no "technical" solutions to offer. Her contribution is at the level of Gospel witness and is expressed in proposing the spiritual values that give meaning to life and guidance for practical decisions, including at the level of work and the economy.
Without doubt, the most important value at stake when we look at the earth and at those who work is the principle that brings the earth back to her Creator: the earth belongs to God! It must therefore be treated according to his law. If, with regard to natural resources, especially under the pressure of industrialization, an irresponsible culture of "dominion" has been reinforced with devastating ecological consequences, this certainly does not correspond to God's plan. "Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air" (Gn 1: 28). These famous words of Genesis entrust the earth to man's use, not abuse. They do not make man the absolute arbiter of the earth's governance, but the Creator's "co-worker": a stupendous mission, but one which is also marked by precise boundaries that can never be transgressed with impunity.
This is a principle to be remembered in agricultural production itself, whenever there is a question of its advance through the application of biotechnologies, which cannot be evaluated solely on the basis of immediate economic interests. They must be submitted beforehand to rigorous scientific and ethical examination, to prevent them from becoming disastrous for human health and the future of the earth.
5. The fact that the earth belongs constitutively to God is also the basis of the principle, so dear to the Church's social teaching, of the universal destination of the earth's goods (cf. Centesimus annus, n. 6). What God has given man, he has given with the heart of a father who cares for his children, no one excluded. God's earth is therefore also man's earth and that of all mankind! This certainly does not imply the illegitimacy of the right to property, but demands a conception of it and its consequent regulation which will safeguard and further its intrinsic "social function" (cf. Mater et Magistra, n. 111; Populorum progressio, n. 23).
Every person, every people, has the right to live off the fruits of the earth. At the beginning of the new millennium, it is an intolerable scandal that so many people are still reduced to hunger and live in conditions unworthy of man. We can no longer limit ourselves to academic reflections: we must rid humanity of this disgrace through appropriate political and economic decisions with a global scope. As I wrote in my Message to the Director-General of the FAO on the occasion of World Food Day, it is necessary "to uproot the causes of hunger and malnutrition" (cf. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 November 2000, p. 3). As is widely known, this situation has a variety of causes. Among the most absurd are the frequent conflicts within States, which are often true wars of the poor. And there remains the burdensome legacy of an often unjust distribution of wealth in individual nations and at the world level.
6. This is an aspect which the celebration of the Jubilee brings precisely to our special attention. For the original institution of the Jubilee, as it is formulated in the Bible, was aimed at re-establishing equality among the children of Israel also by restoring property, so that the poorest people could pick themselves up again and everyone could experience, including at the level of a dignified life, the joy of belonging to the one people of God.
Our Jubilee, 2,000 years after Christ's birth, must also bear this sign of universal brotherhood. It represents a message that is addressed not only to believers, but to all people of good will, so that they will be resolved, in their economic decisions, to abandon the logic of sheer advantage and combine legitimate "profit" with the value and practice of solidarity. As I have said on other occasions, we need a globalization of solidarity, which in turn presupposes a "culture of solidarity" that must flourish in every heart.
7. Thus, while we never cease to urge the public authorities, the great economic powers and the most influential institutions to move in this direction, we must be convinced that there is a "conversion" that involves us all personally. We must start with ourselves. For this reason, in the Encyclical Centesimus annus, along with the discussions of the ecological question, I pointed to the urgent need for a "human ecology". This concept is meant to recall that "not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed" (Centesimus annus, n. 38). If man loses his sense of life and the security of moral standards, wandering aimlessly in the fog of indifferentism, no policy will be effective for safeguarding both the concerns of nature and those of society. Indeed, it is man who can build or destroy, respect or despise, share or reject. The great problems posed by the agricultural sector, in which you are directly involved, should be faced not only as "technical" or "political" problems, but at their root as "moral problems".
8. It is therefore the inescapable responsibility of those who work with the name of Christians to give a credible witness in this area. Unfortunately, in the countries of the so-called "developed" world an irrational consumerism is spreading, a sort of "culture of waste", which is becoming a widespread lifestyle. This tendency must be opposed. To teach a use of goods which never forgets either the limits of available resources or the poverty of so many human beings, and which consequently tempers one's lifestyle with the duty of fraternal sharing, is a true pedagogical challenge and a very far-sighted decision. In this task, the world of those who work the land with its tradition of moderation and heritage of wisdom accumulated amid much suffering, can make an incomparable contribution.
9. I am therefore very grateful for this "Jubilee" witness, which holds up the great values of the agricultural world to the attention of the whole Christian community and all society. Follow in the footsteps of your best tradition, opening yourselves to all the developments of the technological era, but jealously safeguarding the perennial values that characterize you. This is also the way to give a hope-filled future to the world of agriculture. A hope that is based on God's work, of which the Psalmist sings: "You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it (Ps 65: 10).
As I implore this visit from God, source of prosperity and peace for the countless families who work in the rural world, I would like to impart an Apostolic Blessing to everyone at the end of this meeting.
Before leaving the Pope said to those present:
I would like to thank you for this lovely evening, for the invitation and for the beautiful link between the rural, agricultural world and modern music. Thanks to everyone for the participation of representatives from all the countries; this is the way that the whole universal Church lives and celebrates the Jubilee.
I wish you a good rest. Tomorrow another great celebration awaits you. Let us hope for good weather.
Subj: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Pope & Biotech
Alex Avery already made some points clear on the BNA report about recent Pope's speeches. What I want to stress is that it is a huge mistake to believe to newspapers & journalists when it comes to matter such as "what the Pope means".
One can remove bits and pieces from the Pope's speeches in order to support his own views. For instance: (address from 11-11-00) "Follow in the footsteps of your best tradition, opening yourselves to all the developments of the technological era, but jealously safeguarding the perennial values that characterize you." Especially if you cut the second part of the sentence, this could be interpreted as a critical praise of biotechnology. IMHO, the Pope made statements that neither condemned nor blessed biotechnology, statements that are balanced. Much more stress was put on the need to oppose the culture of waste.
I cite again from 11-11-00 address: "It is therefore the inescapable responsibility of those who work with the name of Christians to give a credible witness in this area. Unfortunately, in the countries of the so-called "developed" world an irrational consumerism is spreading, a sort of "culture of waste", which is becoming a widespread lifestyle. This tendency must be opposed. To teach a use of goods which never forgets either the limits of available resources or the poverty of so many human beings, and which consequently tempers one's lifestyle with the duty of fraternal sharing, is a true pedagogical challenge and a very far-sighted decision. In this task, the world of those who work the land with its tradition of moderation and heritage of wisdom accumulated amid much suffering, can make an incomparable contribution."
Of course such statements (which are clear-cut and do not need much interpretation) did not reach the headlines: it is counterproductive (for the newspaper) to tell people they should restrain from bad attitudes such as feeding yourself beyond need and wasting it. Look at the speeches from the official site and do not be fooled: http://www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/jubilevents/events_jubilagric_en.htm
Best regards to everybody
Vatican Calls for Honesty on Biotechnology: "Don't Fear Scientific Progress"
Pontifical Academy For Life
Two New Books Clarify Questions on Genetic Modification
Vatican City, Oct 12 (Zenit).- Transgenic foods, genetic maps and sex selection are just the tip of the iceberg that has sparked the debate on the ethical repercussions of the use of biotechnology. Both scientists and ethicians alike are trying to agree on the limits and use of this new emerging field. At present, there is a clash between those who have denounced the encouragement of alarmist views, devoid of scientific basis and, those who stress the enormous advantages that can be gleaned from a proper use of biotechnology.
To date, the Church has not pronounced itself explicitly on this matter. Believers and non-believers ask a very serious question: what is the Catholic moral position regarding genetic manipulation?
To answer this question, the Pontifical Academy for Life, an institution created by John Paul II himself in 1994, has published two volumes, one on the human genome and another on biotechnology - both presented this morning to the international press.
According to one of the most prestigious European geneticists, Jesuit Angelo Serra, Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine of the Sacred Heart University in Rome, "research on the human genome began in 1989 and after ten years we only know about 6% of this map that contains 3 billion letters. 1,462 genes are known, on which genetic diseases depend, and 4,500 monogenetic illnesses have been identified, to which must be added all the rest, such as tumors, which are poligenetic illnesses." Serra said that "the progress of scientific knowledge is exceptional, although its application is deficient. The 600 experiments of genetic engineering that are currently underway on illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, monogenetic and enzymatic sicknesses, to date have not given definitive results, as they have not succeeded in curing the dysfunction of some genes that cause the sicknesses."
New Medical Responsibility
Serra denounced that "instead of making the medical and health personnel more aware of their own responsibilities, this knowledge is heading "toward moral shipwreck." By way of example he mentioned pre-natal diagnoses, which "tend to eliminate the subject that could develop the sickness, instead of curing it." He added that "there are real cases of eugenics that are triumphing in the field of medicine."
Professor Serra was certain that "the progress in knowledge will bring great benefits to mankind; consequently, science must not be incriminated." Yet, he acknowledged that science "requires greater responsibility and attention on the part of the medical corps and institutions, by respecting the ethical limits that many would like to ignore."
Giuseppe Bertoni, professor at the Institute of Zootechnology of the Sacred Heart University in Piacenza, criticized "the catastrophic sensationalism with which the press reports on biotechnology," specifically, he rejected the "idea of conceiving scientific progress as something that should be feared."
"It's true that ethical limits must be respected, but above all the reality of biotechnology must be known. Because of this I say: 'If you know biotechnology, you don't fear it.' "
"To reject biotechnology because its patent is in the hands of multinational corporations, is an ideological argument - not a scientific one. Perhaps what Rifkin says is true, that corporations have 40% of the knowledge in this field, but it is also true that the public structures and the smallest European enterprises are committed to this research and offer guarantees that must not be ignored," Bertoni said.
Regarding animal cloning, Bertoni said that "it could help to resolve in a final way the problem of species in the process of extinction. It is being tried with the panda, and it could be applied to other species."
The Church's Position
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and director of the Institute of Bioethics of the Sacred Heart University of Rome, explained that "there are no specific indications from the Magisterium of the Church on biotechnology.
Because of this, I have stopped all those who demand the condemnation of these products." "The book, 'Animal and Vegetable Biotechnology: New Frontiers and New Responsibilities,' is a contribution toward clarifying this question. We give the ideological lines: research in the biotechnological field could resolve enormous problems as, for example, the adaptation of agriculture to arid land, thus conquering hunger. The biotechnological products must contribute to man's wellbeing, giving guarantees in face of possible risks. Therefore, what is needed is honesty. Once the proper health characteristics of the product are guaranteed, it is right that the consumer should know if it has been genetically modified."
Finally, Bishop Sgreccia confirmed that "the Pontifical Academy for Life says no to the cloning of man in all its forms."
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Last Updated on 7/17/01