SCHOLARS CONDEMN USE OF SCARE TACTICS TO PROLONG HUNGER
Report Charges Zambian Jesuit Center with Dishonesty About Biotechnology
Auburn, Alabama; October 15, 2002A new report by European and American
scholars challenges the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections
support for Zambias refusal of food aid containing genetically modified
corn. The position taken by this Zambian theological group cannot
be defended by science, said Dr. Piero Morandini, a plant biology
researcher at the University of Milan, Italy and one of eight authors
of the report. Nor is it supported by Judeo-Christian teachings.
How can this group reject food aid, knowing that many Zambians could die
of starvation without it?
The new report, entitled To Die or Not To Die: This is the Problem,
here) has been delivered to US Ambassador to the Holy See
James Nicholson, to Andrew Natsios of the US Agency for International
Development, and to other public officials. US Secretary of State Colin
Powell has already intervened with the Vatican on the reception of food
aid in Africa.
Some 1.3 million Zambians are at risk of starvation due to a serious
drought afflicting at least six countries in Africas southern cone.
The approximately 100,000 tons of US corn was to comprise half of the
UN World Food Programs aid supply for this crisis. But Zambian President
Levy Mwanawasa rejected the GM corn, citing alleged health risks and the
possibility that future agriculture exports to the European Union could
be jeopardized due to anti-GM policies in many European countries.
Despite support for the food aid by the World Food Program, the World
Health Organization, several European government leaders, and numerous
scientific bodies, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection and Jesuit-run
Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre have supported the government decision
to reject the aid. That decision also conflicts with the position of the
Vaticans Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which has offered qualified
support for biotechnology-derived crops.
The new report, which calls the Jesuit decision, politics not science,
is a detailed rebuttal of pseudo-scientific arguments made by the Zambian
Jesuits for rejecting biotech food aid. They claim their objection
is a scientifically-based concern about human health and the environment,
said Professor Drew Kershen, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma.
But their own documents show theyre more concerned about protecting
economic interests or soil microorganisms than human lives. And their
environmental concerns are based on ideology rather than available evidence.
Information available on the Centre for Theological Reflection website
reveals that the Jesuits would accept GM corn if it is milled before being
imported. But, while that would prevent the corn from being planted in
Zambia, it would not change the safety of the food. Furthermore, over
18,000 tons of GM food aid from the United States was distributed in Zambia
during a smaller food crisis in 2001. Yet no health or economic concerns
were raised at that time, nor did any arise. Those of us who are
Catholic fear that the Zambian Jesuits are squandering the reputation
of the Church for goals that are political, not theological, said
Professor Wayne Parrott, a plant geneticist at the University of Georgia.
The report, To
Die or Not To Die: This is the Problem, can be downloaded on
the Internet (Click
North American press contact: C.S. Prakash at 1-334-444-7884 , or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latin American press contact: Wayne Parrott, phone at 1-796-542-0928,
European press contact: Piero Morandini, phone at +39-02-503-14835.,