GENET archive


9-Misc: U.S. Ambassador urges Vatican on biotech crops

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TITLE:  U.S. envoy urges Vatican on biotech crops
SOURCE: Associated Press, by Nicole Winfield / The Ledger-Enquirer, USA
DATE:   12 Nov 2005

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U.S. envoy urges Vatican on biotech crops

VATICAN CITY - The new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See urged the Vatican
on Saturday to promote the potential of biotech crops, saying there was a
"moral imperative" to investigate the possible benefits of agricultural
technology to feed the world's hungry.

"Nothing on its own can solve the complex problem of world hunger,"
Ambassador Francis Rooney told Pope Benedict XVI as he presented his
credentials during a Vatican audience. "But we cannot let irrational
fears stop us from investigating what could be one part of the answer."

Benedict, for his part, urged the United States to continue its
"generous" aid to poor countries, lamenting the "crushing debt" that can
fuel poverty.

"I am confident that your nation will continue to demonstrate a
leadership based on unwavering commitment to the values of freedom,
integrity and self-determination," he said in remarks provided by the Vatican.

He also told Rooney that all political decisions must be based on ethical
considerations that promote "the dignity, life and freedom of each human

The United States, home to major multinational biotech companies, has for
several years touted the potential of genetically modified food to feed
the world's hungry.

Critics of the technology say there is enough food to feed the world and
that what is necessary is the political will and appropriate policies to
fight hunger. They also warn the potential dangers of genetically
modified food outweigh any benefits.

While much of Europe has been skeptical or opposed to biotech crops,
Washington has found a welcome ear in some Vatican circles. The Roman
Catholic Church has no specific position on the matter.

Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace, has spoken favorably about the technology and hosted
an international conference on it two years ago.

Last September, he told a conference that the Vatican was open to
experimentation in the field of biotechnology, but he stressed it must be
done with prudence.

In his comments Saturday, Rooney said Washington was committed to
providing aid to feed the world's hungry. But he said the advance of
agricultural science could help people in "even the most difficult
environments" produce crops to feed themselves.

"We look to the Holy See to help the world recognize the moral imperative
of a true investigation of these technologies," he said.

In his first audience with the pope, Rooney also said the United States
considered the Vatican a partner in spreading peace and fighting
religiously inspired terrorism.

Rooney, a Florida businessman and major Republican fund-raiser, was
tapped by President Bush in July to be ambassador, replacing Jim Nicholson.


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