Food and Water

Fr Sean McDonagh speaking at a Progressio meeting on 'Patenting and Terminator seeds'.
Fr Sean McDonagh speaking at a Progressio meeting on 'Patenting and Terminator seeds'.

If the big corporations are successful, a handful of them will soon control the seeds of all staple food crops globally through patenting. Genetically engineered crops could then become more mainstream and this would be a nightmare for food security.

The claim to patent life is a break with all previous cultural and religious traditions and an affront to them. Attempts have been made to genetically engineer and then patent fish, cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens to increase their growth rates, have lower fat levels, and more tolerance of diseases common to overcrowded and unhygienic factory farms.

Food crops should not be under a regime of patents because we all need them. For Christians, this is the first request in the Our Father: ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Sustainable food and agriculture were discussed at a conference held in Derbyshire in July 2010 on the theme ‘Our Daily Bread: Food Security, People and Planet’, which Columban JPIC helped to organise. Around 400 people attended this annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales. At this ground-breaking meeting the food system was explored and exciting new initiatives offered to help individuals and groups challenge industrial agriculture and reconnect to sustainable agriculture and food. It highlighted insights into ‘our daily bread’ offered by faith and worship. Adequate food, justice for people and the continued fruitfulness of the earth are interrelated.

The Columbans, concerned about the protection of biodiversity, try to raise awareness about the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety, which now covers the rapidly expanding area of biotechnology. Promoting biodiversity is not just about protecting plants and animals. It is also about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

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