Latest pro-GM conference at the Vatican
2.Full list of Study Week speakers and topics
3.An Unholy Alliance - Monsanto and the Raven
The views of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences do not represent those of the Holy See, and pro-biotech and pro-nuclear interests have been using the Academy to provide a 'Vatican' soapbox for these dangerous technologies for some time.
On a previous occasion, as Fr. McDonagh notes (item 1), this even involved the Pontifical Academy in jointly running a pro-GM conference on the "moral imperative" to adopt GM with the US Embassy to the Holy See.
A key player in the Academy is Peter Raven, a Catholic scientist so closely associated with Monsanto that it used to be said that even his sex life came corporate sponsored! He's also been called "a paid traveling salesman for Monsanto". (item 3)
1.Further reflections on the GMO Conference in the Gregorian University in September 2004
By Fr. SeÃ¡n McDonagh
14 January 2009
[Note: Fr. McDonagh is a Dominican missionary priest and the author of "Patenting Life? Stop! Is corporate greed forcing us to eat genetically modified food?" (Dominican Publications, Dublin. 2003. ISBN 1-871552-85-0. ”¢ 14.99, available from http://www.dominicanpublications.com).]
In this column last week I recalled the presentations by three pro-GMOs at a conference entitled, "Feeding the World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology" organized jointly by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome in September 2004. I will continue these reflections on that conference this week because I have just learned that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is organizing another pro-GMO Study Week, in Rome from 15-19 May 2009. The title of the 2009 Study Week is "Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development." Both Dr.C.S. Prakash and Dr. Peter Ravan will be speaking at the Study Week. On May 16th Dr. Peter Raven's topic is "Does the Use of Transgenetic Plants Diminish or Promote Biodiversity." On the following Monday, May 18th Dr. C.S. Prakash will speak on "Lessons from 25 Years of Experience." These are more or less the same topics they discussed at the September 2004 Conference.
At the conference in the Gregorian University in 2004, Dr. Peter Raven tried to persuade his audience that raising questions about the terminator gene technology was both "emotional and irrational." A company which is owned by the giant Agribusiness Corporation Monsanto developed what is benignly called Plant Technology Protection System. What Dr. Raven did not mention was that critics of the technology say that it could have a profoundly negative impact on subsistence farmers. This is why in many countries the technology was aptly dubbed "the terminator gene."
The terminator technology exposes the spurious claims of the pro-GMO lobby, that "feeding the world", rather than making astronomical profits is the primary goal of Biotech corporations .
If the terminator technology were to become widespread, then the added costs would strike the death knell for almost 2 billion small farmers living mainly in the Majority World. Sharing seeds among farmers has been at the very heart of subsistence farming since the domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago. Terminator seeds will negate all this. Farmers will be unable to save the seeds and will be forced to return to the agribusiness corporation each year. Hope Shand, the research director with the Canadian Civil Society Organisation, ECT, is alarmed by the potentially disastrous consequences of terminator technology. "Half the world's farmers are poor. They provide food for more than a billion people, but cannot afford to buy seeds every growing season. Seed collection is vital for them . The obvious intent of terminator technology is to enable agribusiness corporations, such as Monsanto, to control and profit from famers in every corner of the globe. If put into
practice, terminator technology will lock farmers into a regime of buying genetically-engineered seeds that are herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant, copper-fastening them on to the treadmill of chemically-dependent agriculture.
This is probably what Cardinal Renato Martino had in mind in his interview published in the L'Osservatore Romano on 1 January 2009 when he said that, "the responsibility for the food crisis is "in the hands of unscrupulous people who focus only on profit and certainly not on the well-being of all people." He went on to say that a more just system of distribution and not the manufacturing of genetically modified foods is the key to addressing the problem. "If one wants to pursue GMOs (genetically modified organisms) one can freely do so, but without hiding (the fact) that it's a way to make more profits."
At the ethical level I suggest that a technology which, according to Professor Richard Lewontin of Harvard University, "introduces a 'killer' transgene that prevents the germ of the harvested grain from developing," must be considered a grossly immoral act . This technology is a sin against the poor and against previous generations of farmers who, from the beginning of agriculture freely shared their knowledge of plant life with their contemporaries, and with us. It is a sin against the life spontaneities of nature itself and against the God of life and all creativity. To deliberately set out to create seeds that self-destruct is an abomination that no society which calls itself civilized should tolerate. If anything went wrong the terminator gene could spread to other plants and jeopardize food security. No wonder many people look on terminator seeds as a form of biological warfare on subsistence farmers. Terminator technology has not yet been incorporated into commercial seeds,
but each year the biotech corporations try to get it accepted by regulators.
1. Brittenden, Wayne, "Terminator seeds threaten a barren future for farmers,"
2. Quoted in John Vidal, "Mr. Terminator Ploughs in," The Guardian, 14 April 1998. page 14.
3. Jean-Pierre Berlan and Richard C.Lewontin, "It's business as usual", The Guardian," 22 February 1999, page 14.
2.THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
VATICAN CITY 2008
Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development
15-19 May 2009 - Casina Pio IV
FRIDAY, 15 MAY 2009
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY WEEK
9:00 Welcome to the Study Week
President Nicola Cabibbo - Chancellor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo
9:20 Introduction to the Theme of the Study Week:
Unjustified Regulation Delays Use of Golden Rice for 10 Years
Ingo Potrykus - Werner Arber - Switzerland
10:00 Food Insecurity, Hunger and Malnutrition - Necessary Policy and Technology Changes
Joachim von Braun - USA
11:10 Need for an Evergreen Revolution
M.S. Swaminathan - India
11:50 The Past, Present and Future of Plant Genetic Modification
Nina Fedoroff - USA
12:30 Lunch at the Casina Pio IV
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM TRANSGENIC PLANTS
14:00 Tolerance to Abiotic Stresses
Luis Herrera-Estrella - Mexico
14:40 Resistance to Biological Stresses
Roger Beachy - USA
15:20 Improved Water Use Efficiency
Mpoko Bokanga - Kenya
16:30 Improved Nutritional Quality
Peter Beyer - Germany
17:10 Inactivation of Allergens and Toxins
Piero Morandini - Italy
17:50 Nutritionally Improved Agricultural Crops
Martina Newell-McGloughlin - USA
18:30 Dinner at the Casina Pio IV
SATURDAY, 16 MAY 2009
9:00 Genes, Regulatory Signals, and Other Tools
Dick Flavell - USA
9:40 Does the Use of Transgenic Plants Diminish or Promote Biodiversity?
Peter Raven - USA
10:50 The Path to Sustainable Yield: Opportunities and Obstacles
Eric Sachs - USA
11:30 The Private Sectors Attitude to Humanitarian Projects
Adrian Dubock - Switzerland
12:10 Lunch at the Casina Pio IV
STATE OF APPLICATION OF THE TECHNOLOGY
S.R. Rao - India
Jiayang Li - China
Ismail Serageldin - Egypt
16:30 Experience from Use of GMOs in Argentinian Agriculture ¬ Economy and
Moises Burachik - Argentina
17:10 Intellectual Property Rights: Problems and Solutions
Anatole F. Krattiger - USA
17:50 Ethical Arguments Relevant to the Use of GM Crops
Albert Weale - UK
18:30 Dinner at the Casina Pio IV
20:00 Opposition to Transgenic Technologies
Ronald J. Herring - USA
SUNDAY, 17 MAY 2009
9:00 Holy Mass
10:00 Visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
12:00 Lunch at the Casina Pio IV
MONDAY, 18 MAY 2009
9:00 Benefits of GM Crops for the Poor: Household Income, Nutrition, and
Matin Qaim - Germany
9:40 Developing Countries and Transgenic Foods:
Ex-Ante Economic Impacts of Biotechnology and Trade Policies
Kym Anderson - Australia
PUTATIVE RISK AND RISK MANAGEMENT
10:50 Genetic Engineering Compared to Natural Genetic Variation
Werner Arber - Switzerland
11:30 Environmental Risks from Transgenic Plants
Jonathan Gressel - Israel
12:10 Lunch at the Casina Pio IV
14:00 Risks for Consumer Health
Bruce Chassy - USA
14:40 GMO Myths and Realities
Wayne Parrott - USA
15:20 Lessons from 25 Years of Experience
C.S. Prakash ? USA
16:30 Poor Support for Agricultural Research in General, and Specifically
for the CGIAR System
Robert Zeigler - Philippines
BIOFUELS MUST NOT COMPETE WITH FOOD
17:10 First Generation Biofuels Compete
Marshall Martin - USA
17:50 Plentiful Second Generation Biofuels, Without Conflict to Food
Production, is Within our Grasp
Stephen P. Long - USA
18:30 Dinner at the Casina Pio IV
TUESDAY, 19 MAY 2009
HURDLES AGAINST EFFECTIVE USE FOR THE POOR
8:00 The Political Climate Around GMOs
Rob Paarlberg - USA
8:40 Trading in Transgenic Crops ¬ Legal-Commercial Regimes and their Food
Drew Kershen - USA
9:20 Gene-Splicing is Over-Regulated, but Science Shows a Better Way
Henry Miller - USA
10:30 Financial Support of Anti-GMO Lobby Groups
Andrew Apel - USA
11:10 Challenges and Responsabilities for Public Sector Scientists
Marc van Montagu - Belgium
12:00 Lunch at the Casina Pio IV
WAYS TO OVERCOME THESE HURDLES
Adjust Regulation to Accumulated Experience and Knowledge
14:00 Strategies Towards Implementation; Planning For Follow-Up
Chair: Chris Leaver - Ingo Potrykus
What constitutes science-based regulation?
How to develop public understanding and how to built political pressure for
the necessary change?
¬How to approach governments, the media, the public?
¬How to organize a sustained campaign?
¬ How to find sustained financial support?
¬ How to get regulatory authorities on board?
¬ Putative lead government in Europe?
¬ Putative lead government in Asia?
¬ Putative lead government in Africa?
¬What can we learn from Argentina?
17:30 Concluding Remarks
Chris Leaver - UK
Ingo Potrykus - Switzerland
18:30 Closing of the Meeting
Nicola Cabibbo - President
Marcelo SÃ¡nchez Sorondo - Chancellor
Werner Arber - Chairman of the Council
19:00 Dinner at the Casina Pio IV
3.Monsanto and the Raven - an Unholy Alliance
Peter Raven is director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis. Raven
is a passionate advocate of "world sustainability" of the sort that has GM
crops as its central element. "There is nothing I'm condemning Monsanto
for," he says. And he's praised the company's efforts to win public
acceptance for GMOs, "The company has... won many more believers around the world in what they're doing and attempting to do."
An old friend of Raven's, geneticist Wes Jackson, says of him, "I just wish
Peter was more reflective... The fact that living substance, germplasm, can
become the property of a corporation is going to come at a cost. I think the
boundaries of consideration need to be broader than Peter's willing to make
them. In a certain sense he's a paid traveling salesman for Monsanto".
Raven has good reason to smile on the company. According to Time magazine,
"When Raven first came to the garden in 1971, he had 85 employees and a
budget of $650,000. Today there are 354 people on staff, and the budget is
$20 million." That expansion has been assisted by millions from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and substantial corporate support, not least from Monsanto.
The Garden, in fact, is based in Monsanto's home town of St Louis. According to Raven there are other reasons for the strength of Monsanto's support. Although "We don't do biotech work other than bioprospecting," he says, "the basic research we do here at the Garden makes us a major resource for the biotechnology industry." Raven, together with Monsanto, was also the driving force behind a nearby plant biotech research institute on whose board he sits.
The Raven-Monsanto equation includes the Garden's multimillion-dollar
research centre - The Monsanto Center. And it doesn't stop there: the St
Louis paper, The Riverside Times, noted in 1999, "The Garden received $3
million from Monsanto in their last fundraising campaign... Monsanto also
contributed land and a large chunk of the $146 million startup money for the
Danforth Plant Science Center [a project Raven was instrumental in getting off the ground]. Monsanto matches its employees' contributions to the Garden ($225,000 last year) and contributes to the operating fund ($25,000 last year). Trustees give privately, too, and in past years the Garden has had Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro, Monsanto vice president Tom K. Smith and Monsanto research-and-development director Howard Schneiderman on its governing board. Now the Garden is collaborating with Monsanto's nutrition sector on a food library, collecting samples of all plants used worldwide as foods and medicines. (The World Resources Institute lists Monsanto as a
bioprospector since 1989 and lists its collector, as of 1993, as the
Missouri Botanical Garden.) When Confluence, an environmental quarterly,
criticized Monsanto, the Garden's PR woman pulled it from their literature
At the time that was written, Raven's wife was Monsanto's Director of Public
Policy, Kate Fish, leading to jokes that even Raven's sex life came
Not without reason did one scientist say, "Raven glows with conflict of
interest from his perch in St Louis."