If farmers in Africa had greater access to fertile, arable land, safe from armed conflict and pollutants, they would not need genetically modified crops to produce food, said Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. "As a result, you wouldn't need any genetic engineering," Turkson told the the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 5, 2011.
It is "a scandal" that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger, Cardinal Turkson said, especially since there is more than enough food to feed the whole world. Crops and livestock are destroyed because of strict trade restraints or in order to keep food prices high and, in wealthier countries, edible food "is thrown in the garbage," he said. "All it would take is a little bit more solidarity and much less egoism" and there would be enough food to nourish even twice the current world population, he said.
Cardinal Turkson said some multinational companies are actively engaged in trying to persuade bishops in Africa to support greater use of genetically modified organisms. "I think that the real issue is not being for or against GMO," he said. There would be no need for such crops if African growers had access to fertile land that was "not destroyed, devastated, or poisoned by the stockpiling of toxic waste" and if growers were able to benefit from the fruits of their labors by being allowed to set aside enough seeds for planting the next year, and not be forced to continually buy genetically modified seeds from abroad, he said.
"Why force an African farmer to buy seeds produced in other lands and by other means? I'm beginning to wonder if, behind this, there isn't the usual game of maintaining economic dependence at all costs," he said. "I'd even say it becomes like a new form of slavery," he added.
Cardinal Turkson said he is not opposed to scientific and technological progress, but it's important to evaluate whether there is a real need for genetically modified crops.
He said people should "honestly ask themselves whether it's more about business trying to make somebody rich," which was "a reasonable suspicion" given the many examples of similar exploitation in Ghana.