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Lobbies Sought Pope’s ‘Blessing’ for GM Foods

Lobbies Sought Pope’s ‘Blessing’ for GM Foods

While it seems like ages ago that the whole muckraking WikiLeaks controversy surfaced (it has only been a little over 15 months) there still exists some relevance, beyond the sensationalism, to what was uncovered throughout all of the tumult.

While the majority of the attention surrounding these “leaks” have been devoted to the many diplomatic cables concerning U.S. wars currently being fought (Afghanistan and Iraq, in case you needed a reminder) as well as a few embarrassing trivial matters between diplomats abroad, buried deep within the WikiLeaks kerfuffle were a few interesting diplomatic matters concerning genetically modified (GM) foods and the attempt by certain U.S. diplomats and multinationals to make these foods more appetizing to the European Union (E.U.).

One of the key players in this controversy was the Vatican (the seat of all that is wholly and catholic in this world). It seems that, according to a report in The Guardian UK, in 2008, the State Department’s special adviser on biotechnology lobbied Vatican insiders to persuade the pope to declare his support of bioengineered, or GM, foods. “Opportunities exist to press the issue with the Vatican and in turn to influence a wide segment of the population in Europe and the developing world,” said one government cable. Ultimately, the pontiff declined to bestow his blessing.

Back as far as 2003, Bush administration officials were bending over backwards to undermine Europe’s distaste, and ultimate ban, on GM crops and foods. Then, Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, heralded the advent of GM foods saying they were “a blessing” and that GM foods hold the answer to world starvation and malnutrition (Archbishop Martino has since withdrawn support of GM foods and the U.S. involvement in getting these foods into European markets, but this decision seems to be more political than it is moral). The motivation behind heavily lobbying the Vatican was largely because many Catholic bishops, spread throughout the developing world, have been strongly opposed to GM crops, and the intent was to change the minds of these bishops, and in turn change the minds of the masses.

The lobbying effort by U.S. multinationals (Monsanto, DuPont, etc) and U.S. Diplomats didn’t stop at the Vatican’s doorstep. France, always a soft opponent of U.S. foreign policy, was also a target. The Guardian also reported that in response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalize the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops. Stapleton also advocated a trade war over the issue, as a way to support the corporate friends of the Bush administration. It is fair to say that none of these attempts to push GM products on the E.U. would have had any beneficial results for the American public (American agribusiness maybe, but not taxpayers). However, if Europe had been swayed, those corporations (and their loyal lobbyists) would have stood to make some serious bank.

It is also worth noting that while there was a certain amount of nefarious activity involving the promotion of the GM agenda going during the previous administration, the current administration, according to The Atlantic and Sourcewatch, has a similarly close relationship with Big Ag. Monsanto spent more than $4.5 million lobbying and nearly $200,000 on political donations in 2007/2008. Still, GM crops are banned in the EU, and losing popularity here in the United States. However the battle wages, secrets are buried, and God (supposedly) smiles on us all – the natural as well as the GM.

Related:
Monsanto Receives Worst Company of the Year Award
10 Reasons to Avoid GMO

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

36 comments

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2:02AM PST on Mar 10, 2012

There's so much more that goes on under the radar. There are so many harmful chemicals and additives in our food and the majority of north americans don't even question this.
It must've been embarrassing when the tit-for-tat Bush issue rocked the world in laughter about French fries. Both N.Americans Govts are very easily offended and over-sensitive.

There is a letter still doing the political rounds after some two years that Netanyahu quotes as his reason for wanting to bomb Iran to smitherines. Yet any Iranian could verify that not even an uneducated Iranian would express himself so poorly in his written word - which Israel claims to be written by Ahmadinejad.
I'm not sure whether Wikileaks ever cited that letter.

2:29AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

I made 2 comments Previously but both now gone???????????????


While it seems like ages ago that the whole muckraking WikiLeaks controversy surfaced
, Muckraking?? thanks to them we now know a lot more & it must be good stuff otherwise the USA would not get their knoickers in such a twist & try to surpress free speech.
Good for the Pope & his advisers for the 1st time!!!

3:51AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

Yes, but they didn't get it!

2:40AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

I would have said I could not believe this a while back but now know that politicians & GMO Lobbyists have absolutely no morals, particularly in the USA trying to impose its stupid damaging science on everybody the EU & OTHERS MUST RESIST this UN GODLY?? science.

12:15AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

Turning this down must surely rank as one of his best decisions in years!

8:47PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Exactly what does the pope know about bioengineering.

7:40PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Mercy me!!

7:03PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Hey, that's what we need to do!! Get the pope's blessing!! Ask for a blessing from the man who stood by and watched while his minions abused little children. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's a huge pile of horseshit covered with frosting labeled "blessings.' Yuk.

5:08PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

@Kimberlee W "We need more journalists who ARE NOT AFRAID of this treasure trove of Truth!"

There are plenty. Throw a million journalists at it, and all the media has to do is instill a blackout and their million voices will fall silent. And even if they are granted a voice, apathy abounds like a virus.

@Beverly S: Not that I think much of the Vatican, but I'm so glad they had the sense to reject the insidious plan to "bless" GMOs, thereby making them "good" to some. Too bad Wikileaks didn't name names. I'd love to know who the sinister individual was who thought up that one..."

Name is in the article. Re-read it.

The Vatican has always been a purely political institution, is still the center of the aristocratic model of power outside of the corporate world, and this should come as no surprise to anyone. Thank God there are too many moderate scientifically literate people in the Church for this to have stuck for long.

4:29PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Desiring the pope's blessing on GM foods, with the idea that they will automatically become safe, is one of the biggest stretches of the imagination, in history.

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