Vatican advisers recommend modified crops

Nov. 30, 2010 at 8:29 PM

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- World scientists have both the right and a moral duty to genetically modify crops to help the world's poor, scientific advisers to the Vatican say.

A group of scientists, including leading members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, released a statement this week condemning opposition to genetically modified crops by rich countries as unjustified. They demand a relaxation of "excessive, unscientific regulations" they say prevent development of crops for the "public good," NewsScientist.com reported Tuesday.

The statement by 40 international scientists came after a week-long meeting convened by Ingo Potrykus.

Potrykus is a member of the Pontifical Academy based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where he developed "golden rice," a variety engineered with extra vitamin A to prevent childhood blindness.

The academy expressed provisional support for modified crops in 2000, but its scientists say that it can now back the technology with more confidence.

Potrykus and the co-authors argue for relaxation of what they call draconian regulations preventing development of crops for the poor.

Regulatory hurdles make it too expensive for anyone other than large multinational firms to develop crops benefiting the poor, such as drought-resistant cassava and yams, they say.

"The time and investment required is prohibitive for any public sector institution, so the future use of this technology for the poor totally depends on reform of regulation," Potrykus says.

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