Responding, albeit indirectly, to the recent WikiLeaks revelations that the Vatican secretly expressed approval for GMOs and in attempt to save face, regain credibility and straddle neutrality — lofty goals — the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, an influential entity within the Holy See, Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, a Ghanian Cardinal, spoke with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Jan. 5, 2011.
In the interview, the Cardinal highlighted some of the problems associated with the GMOs. The Cardinal stated that there would be no need for GMO crops if African growers had access to fertile land that was “not destroyed, devastated or poisoned by the stockpiling of toxic waste” and if growers were able to benefit from the fruits of their labors by being allowed to set aside enough seeds for planting the next year and not be forced to continually buy genetically modified seeds from abroad.
“Why force an African farmer to buy seeds produced in other lands and by other means? I’m beginning to wonder if behind this there isn’t the usual game of maintaining economic dependence at all costs,” asked the Cardinal.
And while the Cardinal is not opposed to scientific and technological progress he states that “it’s important to evaluate whether there is a real need for genetically modified crops.”
Finally, in what seems like an attempt to find middle ground, Cardinal Turkson said, “I think that the real issue is not being for or against GMO.”
Cardinal, while we are glad that you are “beginning” to “wonder,” the fact that GMOs and economic dependence go hand-in-hand, is actually not news to many who have been questioning GMOs since they were introduced. And while we welcome your general recognition that GMOs are a global problem with dire, local economic consequences, and in fact believed that your appointment signaled winds of change on Vatican’s GMO policy, the fact remains that Vatican is apparently not troubled by the unresolved questions of GMOs impact on health and safety of humans and animals. Indeed, the recent WikiLeaks cables revealed that the Vatican was not concerned about the safety, science and the legitimacy of biotechnology and that, in fact, the mainstream opinion in the Vatican was that the GMO science was “solid.”
The Cardinal’s comments are not a retraction of the Vatican’s secret (not any more) support for GMOs revealed by the recently released WikiLeaks cables — they merely state the obvious, albeit incomplete, concerns associated with GMOs. One may notice that the Cardinal’s words are spoken craftily, in ways that leaves the back door open, you know, just in case tomorrow the Vatican finds (perhaps after more persuasion from U.S. diplomats) that there is a “real need for genetically modified crops.”
Once the veil on Cardinal’s comments is lifted, it becomes apparent that this is yet another calculated PR statement from the Vatican.