GENET archive


9-Misc: Scientists and scholars denounce position of the CIIR on GMcrops

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Scientists and scholars denounce position of the Catholic Institute
        for International Relations on GM crops
SOURCE: Piero Morandini, University of Milan, Italy
DATE:   17 Jul 2004 

------------------- archive: -------------------

   "No one has forced these six million resource-poor farmers to choose
    GM crops."
                                                        Piero Morandini
                                             University of Milan, Italy
                                                         and supporters

   "The key factors affecting early adoption of Bt cotton [in the
    Makhathini Flats, South Africa] were thus the availability of credit
    [...] and pressure from the Vunisa Personnel."

                          Yousouf Ismael, Richard Bennett, Stephen Morse
                                            The University of Reading UK
                       Can farmers in the developiong world benefit from
                                                      modern technology?
                                       Experience from Makhathini Flats,
                                                Republic of South Africa
                             ISAAA Crop Biotech Brief, Vol 1 No. 5, 2001

Scientists and scholars denounce position of the Catholic Institute for
International Relations on GM crops

Milan, Italy - An international group of scientists and scholars released
a statement today countering recent claims by the Catholic Institute for
International Relations that "GM crops won't solve world hunger." On the
contrary, said Piero Morandini, a plant biology researcher at the
University of Milan and lead author of the statement, "Opposing this
technology means renouncing a relevant tool for tackling food security
and world hunger, and opposition will do damage to poor farmers rather
than help them."

The Vatican has acknowledged that feeding the hungry is essential, and is
now considering its position on biotechnology after the Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace convened a conference on that issue.
Nevertheless, the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR)
has emerged to defy the Church's attitude on hunger by criticizing a
technology that has generally found favour in Rome, and with poor farmers
around the world.

This group of scholars, which includes representatives from public
universities in Europe and North America, the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences, and other institutions, was convened to correct the CIIR
position (,
and that of similar groups that oppose self-determination by resource-
poor farmers, because they ignore widely known facts. Following is the
scholars' statement:

The global area cultivated with GM crops is increasing every year and has
now reached 67.7 million hectares, in such countries as Argentina,
Brazil, South Africa, Canada, China, the Philippines, the United States,
and others. Around 7 million farmers in 18 countries have voluntarily
chosen GM crops, as detailed in the last annual report by the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
(ISAAA), a not-for-profit organization with an international network of
centers designed to contribute to the alleviation of hunger and poverty
by sharing crop biotechnology applications (

More importantly, more than 85 percent of the 7 million farmers growing
GM crops are resource-poor farmers in the developing world, tending small
plots. According to ISAAA, "almost one-third of the global biotech crop
area was grown in developing countries, up from one-quarter last year."
No one has forced these six million resource-poor farmers to choose GM
crops. They have willingly adopted the technology because they receive
direct benefits - including ease of cultivation, lower pesticide use,
higher yields and higher quality.

CIIR claims that the practice of saving seeds is "environmentally,
economically and socially sustainable." However, millions of farmers in
developing countries voluntarily choose to buy both conventional and GM
seeds from seed breeders. This is not the result of pressure by national
or multinational powers. Most farmers do not save seed, but buy it every
year because purchased seed is better: free of viral diseases, with a
high germination rate, pure, high yielding and pest resistant. Indeed,
national governments in Brazil and India were forced to approve GM
varieties by farmers revolting against bans in those countries. If, as
CIIR claims, "GM crops pose a serious threat to food security," why is
support among small farmers growing every year?

Western agriculture and western consumers are in many ways dependent on
multinationals, by choice. For instance, conventional hybrid maize seed
is bought every year by basically all maize farmers in our countries. If
multinationals are so deleterious and low input agriculture so
successful, why aren't Westerners switching back to traditional
approaches (e.g. farmers saving seeds)? Does the CIIR claim it is
entitled to choose for farmers what is best for them?

The opposition by the CIIR to multinationals producing GM seeds is
selective and hypocritical. Multinational firms also produce cellular
phones, cars, airplanes, petrol, computers and pharmaceuticals. Why is
being dependent upon multinationals for petrol or conventional seeds
preferable to relying upon GM seeds? If dependency on multinational
corporations is harmful, the CIIR should renounce first its own
dependencies on these products before demanding that farmers be denied
the use of technology that improves food production. CIIR does not
denounce pharmaceuticals made through modern biotechnology that are
widely used by wealthy people. For poor people, food is the most
important medicine. CIIR should allow poor people the food that
agricultural biotechnology can produce. The CIIR would adhere more
closely to the Catholic tradition by preaching (as the Holy Father
rightly does) a more sober lifestyle to many Westerners.

Clearly, some Catholics persist in claiming that food security in Africa
is less important than financial and economic issues, some of which may
not even exist. For an in-depth examination of a tragic misportrayal of
Catholicism similar to that of the CIIR, read 'To Die or Not to Die: That
is the Question,' an earlier paper by many in this same group of
scholars, available at:

CIIR is not alone in promoting ideas of farming which are far from
reality. Farmers are more realistic than these anti-technology, anti-
development groups are willing to admit. Farmers, when given a choice,
are increasingly choosing to purchase and plant GM seeds. Poor farmers
don't need patronizing from wealthy activists, be they Catholic or
otherwise. Poor people need education and the opportunity to find their
own way toward development. Why not allow them to make their own choices?

Piero Morandini, University of Milan
Andrew Apel, AgBiotech Reporter
Giuseppe Bertoni, Catholic University of Piacenza and Pontifical Academy
of Sciences
Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden and Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Davide Ederle, Plant Biotechnologist
Drew Kershen, University of Oklahoma College of Law
Filippo Rossi, Catholic University of Piacenza
C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University
Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia
Gregory Conko, Competitive Enterprise Institute-


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