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Oct 8, 2009

Bishop Knuo of Cameroon Tells Synod of Bishops of Africa - Do Not Readily Embrace GM Technology

Nkuo
Bishop Nkuo in Cameroon with newly ordained priests,
photo courtesy of Up Station Mountain Club
On 8 October 2009, the National Catholic Reporter published an article on Catholic Bishop George Knuo's position on gene modified (GM) technology.  Bishiop Knuo is from the Kumbo diocese in Cameroon.  He participated at both the Pontifical Academy of Sciences May 2009 seminar on "GM Crops and the Developing World" and a Synod of Bishops for Africa meeting on the topic of GM Crops.

The Synod of Bishops has taken the position that Africa should be careful about gene-engineered technology and that Africans should take a "wait and see" approach in using it as a tool in addressing food security, famine and poverty. 

According to Nkuo, “Because this technology is still relatively new and requires long term study of environmental and human health impacts, we in Cameroon suggest that Africa should not rush blindly to embrace it. This technology should be pursued with the greatest care, even if it promises economic salvation for Africa.”

A full text of Bishop Nkuo's speech delivered to the Synod of Bishops for Africa was released by the Vatican Press Office and follows. 

"Apart from greed, corruption and lack of confidence in our political leaders, one of the great obstacles to justice, peace and reconciliation in Africa is poverty. There is poverty in Africa and there is hunger in many parts of the continent of Africa. There are greedy people in Africa including our leaders who do not care about their brothers and sisters.

Poverty means that basic needs for food, water and shelter are not being met. Poverty means that security in the community is not available. Poverty means that the means to heal our families is not available. Poverty means that our children will have no future with hopes of having a family and a means of support. Poverty means that sadness and fear have replaced joy and serenity. This is the poverty of many places in Africa. Poverty is the single greatest cause of hunger.

There is poverty in Africa but Africa has almost all it takes to be the richest continent on earth. Africa is about the wealthiest continent in natural resources in the world. Farmers are poor in Africa because the productivity of their land and labour remain so low. Rural poverty of this kind was once the norm in Europe and North America as well. It would seem this poverty must be overcome with ways we have not met before. True enough, there are no quick fix solutions to solving large scale poverty, but we must begin somewhere.

The eventual escape from these impoverished rural conditions in Europe and America came when the new discoveries in science were applied in farming. It was the availability of productive new technology for farmers that allowed Europe and America in the early and middle years of the twentieth century to bring a final end to widespread rural poverty.

Today we are faced with the issue of introducing genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa. The question is: Are these new technologies inherently harmful or can they have positive contribution to people's lives in poor African countries. Is GM intrinsically immoral or is it just another technology applicable to agriculture? Is this biotechnology an evil empire, as some people want us to believe?

On the other hand, this new science says that not only will the quality of life for the poorest of people be raised tremendously but they will also begin the process of economic development. It is a technology that offers to the poorest farmers, one of the keys to making the breakthrough out of poverty.

But because this technology is still relatively new and requires long term study of environmental and human health impacts, we in Cameroon suggest that Africa should not rush blindly to embrace it. This technology should be pursued with the greatest care even if it promises economic salvation for Africa


For more see: Allen Jr., John L.  "No sale yet on GMOs from African bishops," National Catholic Reporter, 8 October 2009.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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