Prelate Stresses Biotechnology's Benefits

Underlines Need for Aiding African Agriculture

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By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, SEPT. 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Biotechnology guided by morality could greatly aid poor countries in Africa, said the former secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in a congress dedicated to that continent.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, who will be installed as head of the Archdiocese of Trieste, Italy, on Sunday, stated this in a Sept. 24 congress in Rome, focused on the theme, "For a Green Revolution in Africa."

The prelate called Africa a "culpably forgotten continent," and underlined the pastoral challenge for the Church there.

He said, "Either Catholicism goes forward in Africa or it runs the risk of suffering too much."

Some 35 of the 50 poorest countries worldwide are African, the archbishop noted, but "there are no unanimous and simplistic solutions" to the "complex and profound problems" on this continent.

He added, however, that "we cannot ignore the many benefits that would derive from the use of innovative techniques of agricultural production, capable of stimulating and sustaining African farmers."

"Already today," Archbishop Crepaldi affirmed, "thanks to the use of seeds opportunely improved through techniques that intervene in their genetic patrimony," studies show that "widespread progress is being promoted."

He continued, "Biotechnology must not be divinized or demonized. Technology and, consequently, biotechnology, is a good thing but it can be used badly."

In this field as with any, the prelate explained, progress "must be guided by morality."

He pointed out that "biotechnology has concretely produced great developments in many sectors such as medicine, pharmacology and zootechnics," and if it is used correctly it "will be able to resolve many of the social issues of today's world."

Abundance

Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, apostolic nuncio to Chad and the Central African Republic, sent a message about the congress to Professor Giuseppe Ferrai, who shared it with the conference participants.

The prelate stated that in the Central African Republic there is "land in abundance," constant rain and sun, and "fertile earth."

What the people need, he continued, is aid, in order to help the "realistic projects, supported by the parishes" to finance the agricultural needs of the community.

The nuncio stated, "After your seminar, we would also be grateful to receive results and practical advice that could help us. We thank you in advance. 

"Know that people here are determined, but there are difficulties. The past years […] have destroyed motivations."

Legionary of Christ Father Gonzalo Miranda, a bioethics professor and congress participant, who read the nuncio's message, explained, "Africa is the wealthiest continent in natural resources in the world, but it is also the one in which most people die of hunger and sicknesses."

Therefore, he added, "the green revolution and the use of vegetable biotechnologies are an expression of all the best that can be done today in the agricultural field."

The congress was organized by the Regina Apostolorum university and the European University of Rome, with the sponsorship of Italy's National Research Council, in preparation of the upcoming Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which begins Sunday in Rome.