Open letter praises Pope Francis’ defence of biodiversity and small farmers

February 20, 2016 by Staff Reporter

Beyond GM has joined a coalition of faith-based, indigenous, environmental, health, justice, consumer and farming groups in welcoming Pope Francis in his first visit to Mexico and thanked him for tackling in his Encyclical “Laudato Si” the world’s most urgent crisis – global warming.

These groups, which include Greenpeace México, Semillas de Vida, Regeneration International, STUNAM, MA OGM, Vía Orgánica, Organic Consumers Association and la Campaña Sin Maíz no hay País asked the Pope in an open letter to continue speaking about the moral and ethical obligation we all have to take care of the planet.

They also asked that during his visit to Michoacán, winter sanctuary of the Monarch butterfly, Pope Francis emphasise the links between farming, biodiversity loss and climate change, and call for a global shift to regenerative organic agriculture as a critical path toward solving the worlds hunger, biodiversity and climate crises.

Aleira Lara, program leader of Greenpeace Mexico Healthy food, Healthy Soils Campaign, said: “Greenpeace shares the Pope’s opinion of the environment as a common good, for which all of humankind must bear the responsibility of care, and we support his call for a transition to agroecological food systems. Based on a deep respect and understanding of nature and ecology, agroecology can allow us to produce more nutritious food with less resources. It offers an alternative that can provide us with healthy food and crops long into the future, without the use of dangerous agrochemicals and GM crops, while simultaneously protecting our soil, water, climate and biodiversity.”

Artist and activist Favianna Rodríguez said:  “The monarch butterfly is a symbol for the beauty of migration and the right that all species have to freely move. In many ways, the migrant and the monarch butterfly are related – both cross borders in order to survive, and both are under extreme threat due to the greed of a wealthy few. The monarch butterfly is a part of our cultural heritage across borders and it is our duty to protect the natural world and to defend the natural act that is migration”.

Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association (US), and co-founder of Regeneration International said: “We ask that Pope Francis ‘connects the dots’ between healing the Earth and fixing the climate crisis by calling for a global campaign of regenerative organic agriculture and land use, which can dramatically reduce emissions while simultaneously drawing down several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in our living soils.”

Dr. Pablo Jaramillo López, Ph.D., 2014 Pollinator Advocate Award Winner and Research Scientist Soil Restoration and Bioremediation Research Institute for Ecosystems and Sustainability National Autonomous University of Mexico said: “According to the Center for Biological Diversity there has been a 90% reduction in monarch butterflies during the last 20 years. This is caused by the expansion of conventional agriculture, which employs chemical herbicides that kill milkweed plants, the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Unfortunately corn (both native and GMO varieties) is not pollinated by insects so conventional agriculture employs large amounts of chemical herbicides and insecticides, which are the main cause for the reduction of monarch butterflies and other pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds.”

Pat Thomas, Director of Beyond GM comments:  “We are pleased to stand with other campaigning groups and lend our name to this letter. In addition to identifying problems such as GMOs and pesticides, which undoubtedly take agriculture, and the natural environment down a road of destruction, we must identify solutions. We must be protectors, rather than exploiters of the land and celebrate rather than denigrate the small farmers who are responsible for feeding around 70% of the global population and help them to thrive. We welcome the Pontiff’s timely views on all of this and hope his words inspire other individuals and faith groups around the globe to speak out in defence of the Earth.”