"It's clearly a biased seminar. Cardinal Martino has clearly arranged the seminar to be very pro-GMO, with two or three experts in favour and only one or none at all who are against on each panel. He has made clear his support for the biblical position that man was put on Earth to dominate nature." --- Vatican looks to GM food as panacea for hungry and burgeoning global population By Peter Popham in Rome 11 November 2003 http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=462590
The Vatican opened a symposium yesterday into genetically modified organisms (GMO), which critics claim is a smokescreen for eventual endorsement of the crops.
Pope John Paul II has in the past been a strong opponent of GM crops, but in August Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, told an Italian newspaper the Pope was interested in the new technology for food development, as part of a policy of sustainable agriculture.
The cardinal added that 24,000 people around the world died from starvation every year.
Opponents of GMO hope their allies at the Vatican's seminar will point out that, while herbicide resistant GM crops make it easier for farmers to control weeds, there is no proof they bring larger yields.
But Cardinal Martino, who returned to Rome last year after 16 years in the United States where he was the Vatican's observer at the United Nations, is an outspoken champion of GMO. He said last year it was better for people to eat GM foods than grass.
The Vatican, which opposes contraception yet is aware that the ever-growing world population must be fed, insists it has not yet made up its mind.
But Dr Doreen Stabinsky, a Greenpeace science adviser, was damning about the meeting's composition. "It's clearly a biased seminar. Cardinal Martino has clearly arranged the seminar to be very pro-GMO, with two or three experts in favour and only one or none at all who are against on each panel. He has made clear his support for the biblical position that man was put on Earth to dominate nature."
Vatican watchers said the US ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, was known to have tried to persuade the Vatican to speak out in favour of the crops, providing a counterpoise to the opposition that is building across Europe, including in Italy. In Cardinal Martino he appears to have the perfect ally. The seminar "Genetically Modified Organisms: Threat or Hope?", brings together 67 scientists, experts and Catholic Church representatives for two days.