Pope urges preserving diversity in food production
Catholic World News

Rome, Oct. 15 ( - In a message for World Food Day, Pope John Paul II (bio - news) emphasizes the need for "biodiversity," hinting at reservations about the production of genetically modified foods.

The Pope's message, made public by the Vatican today, is addressed to Jacques Diouf, the director of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization. The message takes up the theme of this year's World Food Day: "Biodiversity at the Service of Food Security." Biological diversity, the Pope writes, is needed to ensure the supply of a wide variety of foods, and also to preserve the rights of farmers engaged in widely different types of agricultural progress. He also observes that mankind has a God-given duty of stewardship over creation, and our respect for the created world should forbid "challenges to the natural order."

"Unfortunately there are today many obstacles that are placed in the part of international action undertaken to safeguard biodiversity," the Pope writes. He calls for a proper balance between the rights of developers and those of societies, arguing that control of "the resources present in different ecosystems cannot be exclusive nor can it become a cause for conflict."

The Pope's emphasis on preserving diverse crops, and his argument against monopoly control of different food products, could be interpreted as cautions against an overly energetic development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for agricultural purposes. Although the Vatican has generally indicated sympathy for GMO production, as a means of alleviating food shortages, some Catholic scholars have argued that reliance on GMOs could endanger the role of farmers, decrease the diversity of available food products, and put control of food supplies in the hands of a few powerful corporations.

The Pope's message concludes with the observation that solidarity is the key to proper development of agricultural resources. Solidarity, he explains, should be understood as "a model of unity capable of inspiring action by individuals, governments, international organizations and institutions and all members of civil society," united to promote the common good of their society and their world.