Many thanks to Robert Vint for the comment below and attached statement (via AgBioView) from "Scientists and Scholars" plus previous material from GM WATCH.
One might also mention that some of the signatories to this attack on the Catholic Institute for International Relations are very far from being scholars and scientists! Greg Conko, for instance, works for the Competitive Enterprise Institute - a pro-corporate lobby group sponsored by Monsanto, Dow Chemicals and US tobacco and food giant, Philip Morris, amongst others. Needless to say, the CEI opposes restrictions on smoking just as vociferously as it does those on GM foods!
The "scientists and scholars" also include Andrew Apel, the editor of a biotech industry newsletter, who during the southern African food-aid crisis called on the U.S. to bomb Zambia with its GM grain if it continued to reject it. On a discussion list Apel also wrote of the crisis, "I can almost picture the darkies laying down their lives for the vacuous ideals... their death throes, how picturesque, among the baobab trees and the lions!"
Apel is given as one of the 2 media contacts on the "scientists and scholars" attack on the CIIR.
from Robert Vint:
This attack (below) on CIIR - reported in (and orchestrated by) AgBioView - is disgustingly dishonest. It tries to set the CIIR against the Vatican by stating that "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."
EVERYONE acknowledges that feeding the hungry is essential - but many question the ability of GM crops to help rather than hinder this. They also imply that the Vatican has endirsed GM crops - whereas the conference referred to - which was clearly designed to market GM crops - last year failed to do so. [See accounts below letter - including details about Peter Raven - signatory and corporate lobbyist in the Vatican conference]
This is a gross example of professional misconduct by plant biologists who know nothing about development and socio-economic issues.
---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Subject: Scientists and Scholars Denounce Position of the Catholic Institute for International Relations on GM Crops; Organic baby food 'worst for toxins'; Prince Charles on the wheel and other useless inventions
Date: Monday 19 July 2004 6:46
Today in AgBioView: July 19, 2004:
* Scientists and Scholars Denounce Position of the Catholic Institute for International Relations on GM Crops
* Organic baby food 'worst for toxins' [And 10 other unrelated stories]
Milan, Italy: July 17, 2004
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 (http://www.ciir.org/ciir.asp?section=news&page=story&ID=982), 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 (http://www.isaaa.org/).
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 Ã¢â‚¬” 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 arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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-
For more information, contact:
GM WATCH daily http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp
If you wondered how His (pro-GM) Eminence, Renato R. Martino, could tell La Stampa the Vatican was going to arrive at a pro-GM position ahead of even studying the matter, then the list of speakers for Martino's forthcoming 'STUDY SEMINAR' at the Vatican should help clarify the matter.
It is a list full of the extreme supporters of this technology. We provide... a profile of a scientist who is speaking at the Study Seminar and who is also is a Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Even a friend describes him as 'in a certain sense a paid traveling salesman for Monsanto'.
The perfect contributor to an event organised by Renato Martino.
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE
GMO: THREAT OR HOPE?
10 November 2003
GM WATCH profile
Peter Raven is the Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been a recipient of numerous awards and honours. Time magazine honoured him for his tireless championing of conservation and biodiversity as a 'Hero for the Planet'.
Although Raven is passionately concerned about the extinction of living organisms - warning that two-thirds of the world's species may be gone by the middle of the next century, his solution to a problem brought on by carelessness and commerce, is simple - the mastery of biology allied to the power and efficiency of corporations. 'Major companies will be, are, a major factor if we are going to win world sustainability,' he told a journalist, and the commercial development and acceptance of GM crops is something he's convinced sustainable agriculture requires.
It's an issue on which he comes out fighting. In May 2003, speaking at the Natural History Museum in London, Raven attacked Greenpeace over its opposition to GMOs, telling his audience, 'Last month, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America's most venerable and respected civil rights groups, confronted Greenpeace at a public event and accused it of "eco-manslaughter" through its support of international policies limiting development and the expansion of technology to the developing world's poor'. In fact, the once respected CORE is widely regarded as having been hi-jacked during the 1970s by elements that have since used it as a Republican right pro-corporate lobby.
If Raven is hard on Greenpeace, he's less critical when it comes to Monsanto. '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 as 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 table.'
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 corporate-sponsored.
GMWATCH number 14
VATICAN NEVER ENDORSED GM
The Vatican never endorsed GMOs, a Philippine Catholic outfit has said. "(The) government's claims that the Pope has endorsed GMOs are unsubstantiated and premature," the National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa), social action arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a statement issued on Oct. 1 in which they point to the strong anti-GM sentiments in Episcopal conferences across Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.
As early as last July 19, the Nassa wrote to Archbishop Renato Martino (who has long been making pro-GM statements, implying that he has the backing of the Catholic Church in doing so) informing him of Nassa's concern over the supposed endorsement of GMOs by the council.
"In reply, Archbishop Martino noted the validity of Nassa's arguments about GMOs' being anti-poor," said the CBCP-Nassa. Martino then requested the CBCP-Nassa to substantiate its arguments with evidence. In response, the CBCP-Nassa mobilized its diocesan social action centers, which have since been documenting farmers' experiences with Bt-corn seeds planted in pilot farms.
CBCP-Nassa stressed that it stands by its convictions that "GMOs subvert people's right to food" and this, it said, is "a human rights violation that arises from the patenting of GMOs as mandated by the World Trade Organization."
GMWATCH wonders if, given the increasing media speculation over the Pope's health (he suffers from Parkinson's and some reports say he also has cancer), certain elements within the Catholic Church are taking advantage of the perceived absence of strong leadership.
"Scientists and Scholars" Denounce Catholic Institute for International Relations over GM Crops" (20/7/2004)
Many thanks to Robert Vint for the comment below and attached statement (via AgBioView) from "Scientists and Scholars" plus previous material from GM WATCH.