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APRIL 2009



Re 'IMU calls for objection to pro-GM Vatican study'

The Irish Catholic,
April 9, 2009
Page 18

Dear Editor,

I am member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and I am organizing, on behalf of the Academy, the study week "Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development". I feel some responsibility for responding to the accusations raised in your article from March 26.

For someone reading the information available on the PAS study week with an unbiased mind, it should be obvious that this study week is truly in the interest of the poor. If the author complains that "only pro-GMO speakers have been invited" he may as well have recognized that "industry" has not been invited either. And if Fr. Sean McDonagh is angry about "that GM crops make massive profits for biotech corporations (which is not yet true considering the investment) -- and that there is silence on this crucial matter from all those who are speaking" (I am not sure when he heard them speaking), he is invited to read the abstracts again, and especially my introduction to the meeting.

The topic of this study week is to analyse, what went wrong leading to a situation in which the technology can be used nearly exclusively to the commercial benefit of large companies (there are considerable "spin-off" benefits for the poor as well), and what has to be changed to enable efficient use of the technology by the public sector institutions and small scale private enterprizes to reap the potential of this technology to the benefit of the poor.

It is obvious already before the start of the study week that present GMO-regulation is the major cause for this "monopoly position" as Fr. Sean McDonagh phrases it and that's why discussions about regulations play a major role. It obviously also escaped the attention of your author as well of Fr. Sean McDonagh that "genetic engineers" are a smaller fraction of those invited. The majority are ethicists, lawyers, regulators, development economists, and biologists.

I would be gratefull if you could bring this information to the attention of your readers.

With kind regards,

Prof. Dr.Dr.Dr. Ingo Potrykus
Chairman Humanitarian Golden Rice Board & Network

Dear Editor,

In the article by M. Gargan published yesterday "IMU calls for objection to pro-GM Vatican study", Fr. Sean McDonagh complains with a rethorical statement: "How this technology which is owned by corporations can help the poor is beyond me". No wonder the question is beyond him. In his desire to deal with every possible subject he forgets the famous quote by Alexander Pope: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing".

As an academic researcher professionally involved since more than 20 years in molecular genetics and since 15 years in plant biology, I can assure that this technology has an enormous potential, especially for the most neglected farmers. Most of the times it is a technology 'in the seed' and does not require additional input than the seed itself. There are several application of biotechnology which have been or are being developed in the public sector and which could provide substantial benefit to the third word (I could provide details about these with a regular column on your newspaper). The main reason because these applications did not yet reached the farmers is exactly the subject of the study week: a regulation which is excessive, very costly, not science-based and therefore not only useless, but damaging the interests of people, especially the poorest. Any open mind can easily understand it by reading the preparatory booklet on the vatican website:

best regards,

Piero Morandini, researcher in Plant Biotechnology, Univ. of Milan (Italy)