Pope Francis weighs into the GMO debate

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Pope Francis: 'There remain a number of significant difficulties [around GM crops] which should not be underestimated.' Picture: L'Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis: 'There remain a number of significant difficulties [around GM crops] which should not be underestimated.' Picture: L'Osservatore Romano

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Pope Francis has weighed into the debate over GM crops, arguing that while he doesn’t believe there is any “conclusive proof that GM cereals are harmful to human beings”, he worries about their effects on the ecosystem, and argues that they have resulted in more agricultural land being "concentrated in the hands of a few owners”.

In last week’s encyclical​ - an open letter addressed to 'every living person on this planet' – the Pope wrote: “Although no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings, and in some regions their use has brought about economic growth which has helped to resolve problems, there remain a number of significant difficulties which should not be underestimated.”

On genetic modification, he echoed the views of many scientists, who argue that we have been genetically modifying plants and animals for centuries to create crops and breeds that would not have occurred 'naturally': "It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM), whether vegetable or animal, medical or agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call for specific considerations. The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application.

"Genetic mutations, in fact, have often been, and continue to be, caused by nature itself. Nor are mutations caused by human intervention a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossbreeding of species and other older and universally accepted practices can be mentioned as examples."

But he added: “The expansion of these ​[GM] crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future.” 

In many places, following the introduction of these crops, he claimed, “Productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to the progressive disappearance of small producers.”

Val Giddings: This is nonsense

His comments have met with a mixed response from scientists, with some welcoming his acknowledgement that GM technologies should be judged on a case by case basis and that there is no conclusive proof they are harming human health.

However, his comments about large-scale agriculture and ecosystems went down less well.

Biotech supporter Val Giddings, Senior Fellow at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington DC, told Politico that the argument that more land is in fewer hands because of GM technology was “nonsense​”, adding: “The trends lamented here existed before GM technology was conceived, let alone introduced, and would continue if GM vanished overnight.

“In fact, GM is remarkable among recent agricultural innovations in that it is scale neutral. This is why, of the 18 million farmers growing GM seeds this year, 17 million are smallholders in developing countries. It is astonishing the pope's advisors missed this point."  

A Pope against progress?

Responding to the encyclical in a blog post entitled, ‘A Pope Against Progress’,​ Mark Lynas (a vocal critic-turned advocate of GM crops); Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger (authors of Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility​) said it was encouraging that the Pope wanted a "broad, responsible scientific and social debate​", but added:

"The encyclical inveighs against technological innovation, economic efficiency and the market. This is not a world where the poor might benefit from new technologies, whether better seeds or cell phones, or international trade.”

Professor: 'I am encouraged, not discouraged by the encyclical'

However, Drew Kershen, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (Emeritus), University of Oklahoma, College of Law, who specializes in agricultural biotechnology law and policy, told the Biofortified blog​ he was "encouraged, not discouraged by the encyclical".

He added: "The encyclical can be read favorably to agricultural biotechnology primarily because it does not condemn or attack science and technology.  But at the same time, the encyclical clearly adopts a cautious approach to agricultural biotechnology. 

"The encyclical is not against science or technology but worries about socio-economic concerns that I think are factually incorrect or overemphasized as 'significant difficulties'."

Read the encyclical in full HERE​. 

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GMO's (the insertion of foreign genes into DNA in a lab) and the toxins they soak them with are poisons. Ban them. No compromise

Posted by Mark Donner,

GMO and its associated lethal pesticides and herbicides are dangerous poisons. Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto's Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, "developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females." The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. Everywhere GMO is being grown, food allergies, disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others have been skyrocketing in the human populations.

There has been a drastic decline of crop-pollinating insects all over the world, and what this means for the future of the world's food supply. Wild pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, and beetles are basically disappearing. GMO industrial agricultural practices are causing this insect genocide. Pollinating insects in general, which include a wide range of insects and other animals, are simply vanishing from their normal habitats and foraging areas. That lower diversity and lower abundance of wild insects means less fruits and destruction of the diversity of plants and their fruits worldwide.

GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.

GMOs increase herbicide use. Most GM crops are engineered to be "herbicide tolerant"―surviving deadly weed killers. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide. Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in "superweeds," resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.

GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose populations are down 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds.

By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.

GMOs do NOT increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world.

Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists' 2009 report Failure to Yield―the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield.

The toxins associated with GMO should never be tolerated. NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDE neurotoxins are absolutely the main factor causing the collapse of bee and pollinator populations along with other lethal chemicals, Agent Orange herbicides, glysophate, etc. When these poisons are banned as they were in Europe the bee populations start to recover. GMO neonicotinoids, roundup etc. MUST BE BANNED OUTRIGHT and all the farmers along with USDA, Biotech and chemical companies told to cease and desist from what they are doing.

An even scarier prospect: the "BT" version of GMO soybeans and corn, (basically pesticides engineered directly into the plant )

The "BT toxin" gene is put into the DNA of the corn in order for it to manufacture its own toxins that kill pests. The BT gene originated from a soil bacteria that also infiltrates the microflora (friendly digestive bacteria) in your gut. The Bt gene converts the microflora in your intestine into toxin-manufacturing machines.

So, to be clear, eating GMO corn products can cause your gut (which is primarily responsible for keeping you healthy) to turn into a breeding ground for tiny little pesticide factories inside your body, actively creating toxins which are designed to kill living things. These toxins are found in the blood and are readily transferred across the placenta to developing babies in the womb.

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upL8N8 Is A Paid Troll

Posted by Alan Grant,

Do not be taken in by the propaganda disinformation by this poster. They are undoubtedly 100% certain a paid shill for the biotech companies that manufacture this GMO garbage (and there are many of them!). Read Altered Genes, Twisted Truth and learn the truth. upL deliberately tries to convey the impression that crops have been genetically modified for thousands of years. They haven't of course, and there is the world of difference between cross breeding plants and genetically engineering them.

As for testing them, isn't it funny how the biotech companies never appear to find any problems with their products, but just about ALL independent testing finds very serious problems......for peoples health, for wild life, and for the environment.

As for Golden Rice, it did NOT fail because of anti-GM protests, and this is just more disinformation that the biotech trolls disseminate, and for obvious reasons.

Millions of people around the world - and particularly in the US where the whole sordid business was hatched - are waking up to the gargantuan scam that GM crops are. Read the book, and check out the numerous websites like GM Watch and Beyond GM and the Soil Association and Greenpeace and Friends Of the Earth etc, etc, etc.

But do NOT be taken in by the Pro-GM brigade, because they are lying through their teeth. There are $billions at stake after all, and the potential control of the world's food and farming systems!

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Altered Genes

Posted by Alan Grant,

He really should read Altered Genes Twisted Truth by Steven Druker, or to give it its full title - which sums it all up really: 'Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public'.

Everyone on the planet should read it in fact, before it's too late!

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