On Jan. 31, 2015, Pope Francis received representatives of the Italian Confederation of Independent Farmers. Here are excerpts from his address:
Truly there is no humanity without the cultivation of land; there is no good life without the food that it produces for the men and women of every continent. Thus, agriculture shows its inalienable role.
The labour of those who cultivate the earth, generously dedicating time and energy to it, appears as a genuine vocation. It deserves to be recognized and appropriately appreciated, also in concrete economic policies. This means eliminating those obstacles which penalize so precious an activity which often make it seem unappealing to young people, despite statistics showing growth in the number of students attending Agrarian schools and institutes, fostering the expectation of an increased number of workers in the agricultural sector. At the same time due attention should be paid to the already too widespread reallocation of agricultural land for other, perhaps seemingly more profitable, enterprises. Here too, money dominates! It is similar to the action of those people who have no feelings, who sell their family, sell their mother, but here the temptation is to sell mother earth.
This reflection on the centrality of agricultural work draws our gaze to two critical areas: the first, that of poverty and hunger, which unfortunately still affect a large portion of humanity. The Second Vatican Council recalled the universal destination of earthly goods (cf. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 69), but in reality the current economic system excludes many from benefiting fairly from them. Absolutizing market rules, a throwaway culture and waste which, in the case of food has unacceptable proportions, together with other factors, create misery and suffering for so many families. Therefore, the system of food production and distribution needs to be thoroughly re-thought.
As our grandparents taught us, “bread is not to be trifled with!”. I remember that, as a child, when bread fell of the table, we were taught to pick it up and kiss it, and put it back on the table. Bread in some way forms part of the sacredness of human life, and this is why it cannot be treated as a mere commodity (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, nn. 52-60).
But—to come to the second critical area—it is important to remember that in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 15, it speaks of the call to man not only to till the land, but also to safeguard it. Indeed, the two things are after all, strictly related: each farmer is well aware of how much more difficult it has become to cultivate the land in a time of accelerated climate change and increasingly widespread extreme climatic conditions. How do we continue producing wholesome food for the life of all when climate stability is at risk, when the air, water and the soil itself are losing their purity due to pollution? (...)
The challenge is how to implement a type of agriculture with a low environmental impact. How can we ensure that the way that we cultivate the land safeguards it at the same time? Only in this way, in fact, can future generations continue to live on and cultivate it.