GENET archive


3-Food: "Starvation and its antidote which is genetically modifiedfood produced in the U.S."

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

TITLE:  Issues of dignity focus of U.S.-Vatican ties
        [extract: paragraphs on GE]
SOURCE: Rocky Mountain News, USA,1299,
DATE:   2 Sep 2004 

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

Issues of dignity focus of U.S.-Vatican ties
Ambassador outlines areas of alignment as well as points of conflict,
like Iraq

One of the most vociferous critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq was the
Vatican. Since the invasion in March last year, Pope John Paul II has
rarely mentioned Iraq by name, instead using such platforms as holiday
events to deliver a pointed anti-war message. Senior Vatican officials,
however, have been far more blunt, complaining about U.S. "unilateralism"
and warning that an American strike in the Middle East would arouse anger
across the Islamic world.

The criticism amounted to a chill in what had previously been a warm
relationship between the Bush White House and the Vatican. On a range of
issues from stem-cell research to human rights and public funding for
religious schools, the administration and Vatican appeared to be largely
in sync.

Repairing the damage has fallen to well-known Coloradan Jim Nicholson,
who was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See on Aug. 10, 2001.
Prior to his stint as a diplomat, Nicholson was chairman of the
Republican National Committee. He was in Denver recently and spoke with
the Rocky Mountain News. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.


News: You have one of the more unique postings in the U.S. diplomatic corps.

Nicholson: Officially, our bilateral relations with the Vatican began
only as recently as 1984, though there had been numerous attempts at
diplomatic ties since 1788. Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to
succeed in cementing formal diplomatic relations because he realized the
value and strategic importance of this pope. In promising to bring down
the evil empire of the Soviet Union he found a kindred spirit. I am the
sixth U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

News: You have said that your task is unique in the sense that you
practice "moral diplomacy." Maybe you could explain what you mean by that.

Nicholson: What I mean is that we work to fulfill the top priority of
U.S. national security policy, which is to enhance human dignity. It
surprises an awful lot of people to know that. The main issues are
religious freedom, the trafficking in human beings, HIV-AIDS, starvation
and its antidote which is genetically modified food produced in the U.S.
both for near-term sustenance and long-term development, especially for
Africa. And the Middle East, of course, because of what goes on there,
including the violence and its dehumanizing effects. Iraq is another
central issue over which we have differed with the Vatican and disagreed
over the laws of diplomacy. Now terrorism is also an important issue,
over which we are aligned. The Vatican has been very supportive of U.S.-
led efforts in Afghanistan to stop people who are killing in the name of God.


News: You mention poverty as one of the issues the United States and
Vatican have a joint interest in alleviating. But what is the Vatican's
understanding, as you see it, of the causes of poverty? The Bush
administration might argue that the best way to relieve poverty in the
Third World is to enact political and economic reforms that promote
freedom and allow people to develop their own wealth. In contrast,
historically, the church has seen poverty as primarily a matter requiring
the redistribution of wealth. Do you think the Vatican hierarchy
understands the necessity of ethical, hospitable capitalism?

Nicholson: This is a holistic issue that is evolving within the church.
The pope has said globalization is here to stay and that we have to make
it work for everybody. A major focus of the church is, of course,
justice. They define it quite broadly, which can include such things as
debt forgiveness to help countries attain a certain level of self-
sufficiency and independence. In general, however, the church always
returns to the dignity issues. Food, for example, is a huge concern we
both share. The Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome has concluded
that there are about 800 million people worldwide with a food deficit
that can range from undernourishment to starvation. Feeding these people
is a major piece of the Vatican's portfolio because having enough to eat
is a key aspect of leading a dignified life.

News: The Vatican has a problem with genetically modified food.

Nicholson: We don't have convergence of this issue, though I'm working to
try to persuade them otherwise. About 80 percent of our corn and soy
beans are the product of genetically modified seed, which is tremendous
because yields are heavier, it's better for the environment, uses less
water, herbicides and pesticides, and it's easier to cultivate in harsher
climates. There's no science that supports any claim of deleterious
health effects. But the Vatican has basically sat idly by while the
European community protects its growers from foreign competition and
makes what are largely bogus claims about food security. The big problem
is the effect on Africa, where millions are starving. The odd thing is
the argument the Europeans have been able to sell to the African nations,
which is that if you ever allow genetically modified food into your
countries some people are going to grow it but you'll never be able to
export it to Europe. And this is said to countries with whole populations
under duress.

Unfortunately, some of the African bishops have bought into this. There
have been a few incidents in which aid groups have been forced to take
back supplies of GM food stocked in warehouses. This is just
unbelievable. The Vatican can't sit on the sidelines forever. If the pope
were to weigh in with his tremendous moral authority I think European
opposition would eventually fade away and we could go into Africa and not
only feed people but help put them on a path of sustainable development.


see also:


Join the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See at a conference presented in
cooperation with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences 

Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology

Friday, September 24, 2004
The Pontifical Gregorian University
Piazza della Pilotta, 4
Rome, Italy


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(*)
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