Ethical Questions Posed by Genetically Modified Organisms

Cardinal Lozano Barragán Cites a Range of Concerns

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ROME, MAY 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The introduction of genetically modified organisms must be guided by Christian ethics so as not to harm the environment or the poor, says a Vatican official.



Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, said he favors biotechnology, especially when it seeks to combat world. But he added that the genetically modified organisms, GMOs, must be used cautiously.

"In agriculture, GMOs are directed to the laudable goals of obtaining sustainable development in rural areas, ensuring a just and adequate participation of the interests of both the rich and the poor," the cardinal said in an address last week at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

"However, we must always find practical ways to analyze the results already obtained," he said.

The occasion of his talk was a congress, organized by the Italian Ministry of Ecology, on the possibilities offered by biotechnologies.

To analyze the impact of GMOs, "we must encourage cooperation and solidarity among institutions, the integration of experimental science and technologies, and develop new codes of ethical conduct that favor, above all, the poorest and most marginalized as peoples and as individuals," Cardinal Lozano Barragán continued.

Specifically, he said, it is necessary to study the potential of GMOs "to intensify food production, their undesirable effects at present and in the future, the problems generated in the environment, the transfer of possible toxins and allergens, the diminution of biodiversity, the disappearance of small farmers due to large GMO enterprises."

Another issue that the president of the health-care council considers important to evaluate is the "patenting of products, the balance between the new and traditional technologies, agricultural and commercial policies at the national and international level, the necessary intervention of states' governments in the private sector, the exchange of technologies [and] the increase of developing countries' agricultural dependence on rich countries producers of GMOs."

"Let us remember that we are in a world in which economic power is increasingly concentrated in large transnational companies that act beyond the control of states' governments and that the tendency is to move from public services and regulation to privatization and the lack of rules," he stressed.

Ethical action should be directed "to combat and defeat the negative effects of the globalization of hunger, poverty and inequality among peoples," Cardinal Lozano Barragán concluded.

Currently, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is preparing a document on the ethical repercussions of GMOs.