Full English Translation of Pope Francis' Climate and Environmental Encyclical, 'Laudato Si': Chapter Three

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 18 Jun 2015 04:01:00 GMT

The leaked draft of “Laudato Si’”, Pope Francis’ widely anticipated encyclical on the crisis of climate change and other global environmental concerns, contains 146 numbered paragraphs contained within a preface and six chapters. The translation below from the original Italian is very rough, a Google translation amended by Brad Johnson.


Table of Contents


101. Nothing will serve to describe the symptoms, if we do not recognize the human root of the ecological crisis. There is a way of understanding life and human action that strays and that contradicts the reality to the point of ruin. Why cannot we stop and think about this? I propose therefore to focus on the technocratic paradigm dominant in place that deals with the human being and his action in the world.

I. Technology: creativity and power

102. Humanity has entered a new era in which the power of technology puts us at a crossroads. We are the heirs of two centuries of huge waves of change: the steam engine, the railroad, the telegraph, electricity, the automobile, the airplane, the chemical industry, modern medicine, computer science and more recently the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnology and nanotechnology. It is right to rejoice for these advances and be excited before the wide possibilities that we open with these novelties, because “science and technology are a wonderful product of human creativity that is a gift of God.” [81 John Paul II, Address to representatives of science, culture and of Higher Studies of the United Nations University, Hiroshima (25 February 1981), 3: AAS 73 (1981), 422.] The transformation of nature for purposes of utility is a feature of the human race since its beginnings, and thus technology “expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome to the material limitations.” [82 Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 69: AAS 101 (2009), 702.] Technology has remedied many ills that plagued and limited human beings. It is not possible not to appreciate and give thanks for the progress achieved, especially in medicine, engineering and communications. And how can we recognize all the efforts of many scientists and engineers who have developed alternatives for sustainable development?

103. Techno-science, well-oriented, is able not only to produce really valuable things for improving the quality of life of the human being, from objects of domestic use to great means of transport, to bridges, to buildings, to public spaces. It is also able to produce beauty and to achieve for the human being, in the material world, the “leap” in the field of beauty. You cannot deny the beauty of an airplane, or some skyscrapers, can you? There are precious paintings and music obtained through the use of new technical tools. Thus, the desire for beauty and the craftsman who contemplates that beauty takes the leap to a certain, properly human fullness.

104. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our own DNA and other potentiality that we have acquired offers a tremendous power. Indeed, they give those who hold the knowledge and especially the economic power to exploit a impressive domain of the whole human race and the whole world. Mankind has never had so much power over itself and no guarantee that it will use well, especially considering the way in which it is availing itself. Just remember the atomic bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, as the largest deployment of technology flaunted by Nazism, communism and other totalitarian regimes at the service of the extermination of millions of people, not to mention that now war has more and more deadly tools. In whose hands and in whose reach is so much power? It’s terribly risky that it resides in a small part of humanity.

105. There is a tendency to believe that “every purchase of power is simply progress, increasing safety, utility, well-being, vitality, fullness of values”, [83 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 19659 Würzburg, 87 (ed. trans .: The End of the Modern, Brescia 1987, 80).] as if reality, the beneficial, and the truth effloresces spontaneously from the very power of technology and the economy. The fact is that “modern man was not brought up in the right use of power,” [84 Ibid. (Ed. Trans .: 81).] because the immense technological growth has not been accompanied by the development of the human being with regard to responsibility, values and conscience. Every age tends to develop poor self-awareness of its own limitations. It is therefore possible that today humanity does not feel the seriousness of the challenges it faces, and “man’s ability to use its power of evil is growing” when “there are no rules of freedom, but only the claimed necessity of utility and security. “[85 Ibid., 87-88 (ed. trans .: 81).] The human being is not fully autonomous. His freedom is sick when he surrenders to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, selfishness, brutal violence. In this sense, he is naked and exposed before his own power that continues to grow, without having the tools to control it. He may have superficial mechanisms, but we can say that he lacks adequate solid ethics, a culture and a spirituality that really give a limit and contain it within a lucid self-control.

II. The globalization of the technocratic paradigm

106. The fundamental problem is another, even more profound: the matter-of-fact way humanity has taken technology and its development together with a uniform and one-dimensional paradigm. In this paradigm stands a conception of the subject that gradually, in the logico-rational process, understands and thereby owns the object that is outside. This subject is expressed in the establishment of the scientific method with its experimentation, which is already explicitly a technique of possession, dominion and transformation. It is as if the subject were facing the formless reality completely open to manipulation. The intervention of human being in nature has always been the case, but for a long time has had the accompanying feature, of favoring the possibilities of things themselves. It was to receive what the natural reality itself allows, as a reaching out. Conversely, what matters now is to extract everything possible from things through the imposition of the human hand, which tends to ignore or forget the very image of what he had before. In this way human beings and things have ceased to give each other a friendly hand, instead becoming contenders. From here you can go easily to the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which has so impressed economists, theorists of finance and of technology. This presupposes the lie about the infinite availability of goods on the planet, leading to “squeeze” to the limit and beyond the limit. This is the false assumption that “there is an unlimited amount of energy and usable resources, that their immediate regeneration is possible and that the negative effects of the manipulation of nature can be easily absorbed.” [86 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 462.]

107. We can therefore say that the cause of many problems in the world today there is first a tendency, not always conscious, to set the methodology and the objectives of science and technology according to a paradigm of understanding that affects people’s lives and the functioning of society . The effects of the application of this model to all of reality, human and social, are found in degradation of the environment, but this is just a sign of reductionism that affects human life and society in all their dimensions. It must be recognized that the products of technology are not neutral, because they create a story that ends up influencing lifestyles and guides the social possibilities in the direction of the interests of certain powerful groups. Certain choices that seem purely instrumental, are actually choices relevant to the type of social life intended to be developed.

108. You can not think of supporting another cultural paradigm and use of technology as a mere tool, because today the technocratic paradigm has become so dominant that it is very difficult regardless of one’s resources, and even more difficult is to use one’s resources without being dominated by its logic. It has become counter-cultural to choose a lifestyle with objectives that can be at least partially independent of technology, its costs and its globalizing power and overpowering. In fact, technology has a tendency to let anything remain outside its iron logic, and “the man who is the protagonist knows that, ultimately, it is neither utility nor welfare, but dominion; dominion in the extreme sense of the word.” [87 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63-64 (ed. trans .: The end of the modern age, 58).] Thus,”trying to grasp the elements of nature and together those of human existence.” [88 Ibid., 64 (ed. trans .: 58).] This reduces the ability of decision, the more authentic freedom and the space for alternative creativity from individuals.

109. The technocratic paradigm tends to exert its dominance also on the economy and politics. The economy takes every technological development in function of profit, without paying attention to possible negative consequences for human beings. Finance stifles the real economy. We have not learned the lessons of the global financial crisis and very slowly one learns that about environmental deterioration. In some circles it is argued that the current economy and technology will solve all environmental problems, the same way one says, with a non-academic language, that the problems of hunger and poverty in the world will be solved simply with market growth. It is not a matter of economic theory, that perhaps no one today dares to defend, but their settlement in the factual development of the economy. Those who do not argue with the words support it with deeds, when one does not seem to worry about the right level of production, a better distribution of wealth, a responsible care for the environment or the rights of future generations. The behavior says that the goal of maximizing profits is sufficient. The market alone does not ensure integral human development and social inclusion. [89 Cf. Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 35: AAS 101 (2009), 671.] In the meantime, we have a “sort of a wasteful and consumerist overdevelopment which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation” [90 Ibid., 22: p. 657.] while we are not developing fast enough the economic institutions and social programs that enable the poor to access resources on a regular basis. There is not enough awareness of what are the deeper roots of the current imbalances, which have to do with the orientation, purpose, meaning and social context of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization due to technology implies considerable difficulty in having an overview. The fragmentation of knowledge performs its task in time to obtain concrete applications, but often leads one to lose the sense of wholeness, of the relations that exist between things, the broad horizon, meaning that becomes irrelevant. This same fact prevents one from identifying appropriate ways of solving the most complex problems of today’s world, especially those of the environment and the poor, who cannot be addressed from a single point of view or from one type of interest. A science that claims to offer solutions to the big issues, should necessarily take account of all that knowledge produced in other areas of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics. But this is a way of acting tough to carry on today. So you may not even recognize the true horizons of ethical reference. Life becomes a surrender to circumstances influenced by technology, seen as the main resource for interpreting existence. In the concrete reality that challenges us, different symptoms appear showing the error, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, loss of sense of life and of living together. This demonstrates once again that “the reality is superior to the idea.” [91 Apost. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 231: AAS 105 (2013), 1114.]

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial answers to the problems that arise with respect to environmental degradation, depletion of natural reserves and pollution. It should be a different look, a thought, a policy, an educational program, a lifestyle and a spirituality that give shape to a resistance against the advance of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological efforts may end up locked in the same globalized logic. To search only for a technical remedy for any environmental problem that is presented, purports it as an isolated thing that is in fact connected, hiding the true and most profound problems of the global system.

112. One can, however, extend one’s gaze again, and human freedom is capable of limiting technology, to direct it, and put it at the service of another kind of progress, healthier, more humane, more social and more integral. Liberation from the prevailing technocratic paradigm in fact happens in some occasions. For example, when the community of small producers opts for cleaner production systems, supporting a way of life, of happiness and of conviviality not consumerism. Or when technology is geared primarily to solve the concrete problems of others, with a commitment to help them live with more dignity and less suffering. And even when the creative search of beauty and its contemplation are able to overcome the objectifying power in a kind of salvation that takes place in beauty and the person who contemplates it. The authentic humanity, which calls for a new synthesis, seems to live in the midst of technological civilization, almost imperceptibly, like fog seeping under a closed door. It will be a permanent promise, despite everything, that blossoms as stubborn resistance for what is authentic?

113. On the other hand, people no longer seems to believe in a happy future, do not trust blindly in a better tomorrow starting from the current state of the world and technological capacity. One becomes aware that the progress of science and technology is not equivalent to the progress of humanity and history, and sees that other roads are essential to a happy future. Nevertheless, neither does one imagine giving up the possibilities offered by technology. Humanity has changed profoundly and the accumulation of novelties consecrates a transience that draws us to the surface in one direction. It becomes difficult to stop to recover the depth of life. If the architecture reflects the spirit of an era, the mega-structures and tract houses express the spirit of globalized technology, where the permanent newness of products merges with a heavy ennui. Not resign ourselves to this and not give up on us questions about the meaning and purpose of all things. Otherwise, only we legitimize the status quo and we will need more surrogates to tolerate the void.

114. What is happening makes us face the urgent need to proceed in a courageous cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral, but may involve beginning at the end of a process different intentions and possibilities, and can be configured in various ways. Nobody wants to go back to the cave, but it is essential to slow the march to see reality in another way, collect the positive and sustainable developments, and at the same time recover the values and great purposes destroyed by a megalomaniac licentiousness.

III. Crisis and consequences of modern anthropocentrism

115. Modern anthropocentrism, paradoxically, ended up placing the technical reason above the reality, because the human being “no longer feels the nature neither as valid norm nor as living shelter. He sees without assumptions, objectively, as space and matter in which to create a work in which to throw everything, and no matter what it will be.” [92 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63 (ed. Trans .: The End of the Modern, 57-58).] In this way, it diminishes the intrinsic value of the world. But if the human being does not rediscover his true place, he does not include adequately himself and ends up contradicting his own reality. “Not only the land was given by God to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose, according to which it was given; but the man has given himself to God and must therefore respect the natural and moral structure, which has been endowed.” [93 John Paul II, Enc. Lett. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 841.]

116. In modern times there has been a considerable anthropocentric excess that, in another capacity, today continues to undermine any reference to something common and any attempt to strengthen social ties. So it is time to pay attention to reality again with the limits it sets, which in turn constitute the possibility of more healthy and fruitful human and social development. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology has come to promote a misconception of the relationship between human beings and the world. Many times was aired a Promethean dream of dominating the world that caused the impression that the care of nature is something for the weak. Instead the correct interpretation of the concept of the human being as the lord of the universe is to understand him as a responsible administrator. [94 See Statement Love for Creation. An Asian Response to the Ecological Crisis, Interview promoted by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (Tagaytay, 31 January to 5 February 1993), 3.3.2. ]

117. The lack of concern for measuring the damage to nature and the environmental impact of decisions, is only the reflection of an evident lack of interest in acknowledging the message that nature carries inscribed in its own structure. When you do not recognize the reality itself of the importance of a poor person, of a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to name but a few – hardly you will hear the cries of nature itself. Everything is connected. If the human being is declared independent from reality and absolute ruler, the very basis of its existence crumbles, because “Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man replaces God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion of nature.” [95 John Paul II, Enc. Lett. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.]

118. This situation leads us to a permanent schizophrenia, ranging from technocratic exaltation hat does not recognize in other beings their own value, up to the reaction to deny any special value to the human being. But one can not prescind humanity. There will not be a new relationship with nature without a new human being. There is no adequate ecological anthropology. When the human person is only considered to be one among others, who results from a game of chance or by a physical determinism, “you run the risk that the attenuation in people an awareness of responsibility.” [96 Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, 2: AAS 102 (2010), 41.] A deviated anthropocentrism does not have to give way to a “bio-centrism” because that would imply introducing a new imbalance, which not only will not solve the problems, but will add another. It cannot be required on the part of the human commitment to the world, if you do not recognize and do not enhance at the same time our peculiar capacity for knowledge, desire, freedom and responsibility.

119. The criticism of deviated anthropocentrism should also be placed in the background of the value of relationships between people. If the ecological crisis is an emergence or an external manifestation of the ethical crisis, spiritual and cultural modernity, we cannot pretend to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without restoring all fundamental human relations. When Christian thought claims for the human being a unique value on top of the other creatures, it gives space to the development of every human person, and thus stimulates the recognition of the other. The opening to a “you” who can know, love and dialogue continues to be the nobility of the human person. Therefore, in order to ensure an adequate relationship with creation, there is no need to downplay the social dimension of the human being and even its transcendent dimension, its openness to the “You” of God. In fact, one cannot propose a relationship with the environment ignoring that with other people and with God. It would be a romantic individualism disguised as ecological beauty and a suffocating self-seclusion in immanence.

120. Since everything is related, neither is justification of abortion compatible with the defense of nature. It does not appear viable an educative path for the reception of weak beings that surround us, that are sometimes troublesome or importunate, when you do not give protection to human embryos although his arrival is due to hardships and difficulties: “If you lose the personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.” [[97 Id., Lett. Enc. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 28: AAS 101 (2009), 663.]

121. The development of a new synthesis that overcomes the false dialectic of the last centuries is still waiting. Christianity itself, remaining faithful to its identity and treasure of truth which he received from Jesus Christ, always thinks back to express again in dialogue with the new historical situations, letting bloom its perennial newness. [98 See Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium primum, chap. 23: PL 50, 668: “Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur Aetate.”]

The practical relativism

122. A deviated anthropocentrism results in a deviated lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium I referred to the practical relativism that characterizes our era, and that is “even more dangerous than doctrinal.” [99 N. 80: AAS 105 (2013), 1053.] When the human being puts himself in the center, he ends up giving top priority to his contingent interests, and all the rest becomes relative. So it should not surprise that, together with omnipresence of the technocratic paradigm and the adoration of human power without limits, this relativism develops in people, in which everything becomes irrelevant if it serves their immediate interests. There is in this logic that allows us to understand how to nurture simultaneously different attitudes that cause at the same time environmental degradation and social degradation.

123. The culture of relativism is the same disease that drives a person to take advantage of another and to treat him as a mere object, forcing him to forced labor, or reducing him to slavery due to a debt. It is the same logic that leads to sexually exploiting children, or abandoning the elderly who do not serve one’s interests. It is also the internal logic of those who say: let the invisible forces of the market govern the economy, because their effects on society and nature are unavoidable damage. If there are no objective truths or stable principles, outside of meeting the aspirations and immediate needs, what limits trafficking in human beings, organized crime, drug trafficking, the trade in blood diamonds and endangered animal skins? Is it not the same relativist logic that justifies the purchase of organs from poor people in order to sell them or use them for testing, or the discarding of children because they do not respond to the desire of their parents? It is the same logic as “disposable” that produces a lot of refuse only for the inordinate desire to consume more than what one really needs. So we cannot think that the political agendas or the force of the law will be enough to avoid the behaviors that affect the environment, because when it is the culture which is corrupt and no longer recognizes any objective truth or universally valid principles, laws are seen just as arbitrary impositions and obstacles to avoid.

The need to defend labor

124. In any setting of integral ecology, which does not exclude the human being, it is essential to integrate the value of work, so expertly developed by St. John Paul II in his encyclical Laborem exercens. Recall that, according to the biblical account of creation, God placed the human being in the just created garden (cf. Gen 2:15), not just to take care of the existing (to guard), but to work there in order to produce fruit (to cultivate). So the workmen and artisans “ensure the eternal creation” (Sir 38,34). In reality, human intervention that promotes the prudent development of creation is the most appropriate way to take care, because it involves providing an instrument of God to help bring out the potential that he himself has inscribed in things, “The Lord has created medicines from the earth, the sensible man will not despise them” (Sir 38,4).

125. If we try to think about what the appropriate relationship is between the human being and the world around him, a need emerges for a correct conception of labor, because if we talk about the relationship between human beings and things, there is the question about the meaning and purpose of human reality. We do not speak only of manual labor or work on the land, but any activity that involves some transformation of existence, from the development of a social study to the design of a technological development. Any form of work requires an idea about the relationship that man can or must establish with the other self. Christian spirituality, along with contemplative wonder for creatures that we find in St. Francis of Assisi, has also developed a rich and healthy understanding of labor, as we can find, for example, in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and his disciples.

126. We also collect something from the long monastic tradition. At first it favored a certain way to escape from the world, trying to get away from urban decay. For this, the monks sought the desert, convinced that it was the right place to recognize the presence of God. Then, St. Benedict wanted his monks to live in community, combining prayer and study with manual work (Ora et labora). This introduction of manual work steeped in the spiritual sense proved revolutionary. One learned to look for the maturation and sanctification interweaving between recollection and work. In this manner of living work makes us more able to care and respect for the environment, impregnates our relationship with the world with healthy sobriety.

127. We affirm that “man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.” [100 Conc. Vatican Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Past. Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World, 63.] Nevertheless, in the human being when you lose the ability to contemplate and respect, it creates the conditions so that the meaning of work is distorted. [101 Cf. John Paul II, Lett. enc. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.] It should always remember that the human being is at the same time “capable of becoming an actor himself responsible for his material improvement of his moral progress, the full arc of his spiritual destiny. ” [102 Paul VI, Enc. Lett. Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 34: AAS 59 (1967), 274.] Labor should be the scope of this multifaceted personal development, where we bring into play many dimensions of life: creativity, projecting into the future, development of capabilities, the pursuit of values, communication with others, an attitude of adoration. Therefore, the social reality of today’s world, beyond the narrow interests of business and a questionable economic rationality, demands that “we continue to prioritize the goal of access to work [...] for all.” [103 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666.]

128. We are called to work since our creation. You should not try to replace more and more human labor with technological progress: doing so would damage humanity itself. Work is a necessity, is the meaning of life on this earth, maturation, human development and fulfillment. In this way, helping the poor with money should always be a temporary remedy to cope with emergencies. The real goal should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. However, the orientation of the economy has encouraged a kind of technological progress aimed at reducing production costs due to the decrease in jobs, which are being replaced by machines. It is another way in which the action of the human being can turn against itself. The reduction in jobs “also has a negative impact on the economic level, through the progressive erosion of ‘social capital’: the network of relationships of trust, reliability and respect of the rules, which are essential to any civil coexistence”. [104 Ibid.] In short, “the human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.” [105 Ibid.] To give up investing in people to get more immediate profit is a bad deal for society.

129. In order to continue to be possible to offer employment, it is essential to promote an economy that encourages product diversification and entrepreneurial creativity. For example, there is a wide variety of agricultural and food systems of small scale that continues to feed most of the world population, using a small portion of the land and water and producing less waste, either in small agricultural plots and gardens, or in hunting and collection of forest products, or in the artisanal fisheries. The economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing small farmers to sell their land or to abandon their traditional crops. The attempts of some of them to develop other forms of more diversified production are useless because of the difficulty of access to regional and global markets or because the sales infrastructure and transport is at the service of big business. The authorities have the right and responsibility to take measures to clearly and firmly support small producers and diversification of production. For there to be an economic freedom in which all actually benefit, sometimes it may be necessary to put limits to those who hold the greatest resources and financial power. The announcement of economic freedom is simple, but when the actual conditions that prevent many can access it in reality, and when you reduce access to employment, it becomes a contradictory phrase that dishonors policy. Entrepreneurial activity, which is a noble vocation oriented to create wealth and improve the world for everyone, can be a very fruitful to promote the region where it places its activities, especially if that includes the creation of jobs, is an essential part of one’s service to the common good.

Innovation from biological research

130. In the philosophical and theological vision of the human being and creation, which I tried to suggest, it is clear that the human person, with the peculiarity of his reason and of his science, is not an external factor that should be removed completely. However, while the human being can intervene in the world of plants and animals and use them when necessary to his life, the Catechism teaches that animal testing is legitimate only if it “remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives” . [106 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2417.] Remember firmly that human power has limits and that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer needlessly and have indiscriminately of their lives.” [107 Ibid., 2418.] Any such use and experimentation “requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.” [108 Ibid., 2415.]

131. I want to acknowledge here the balanced position of St. John Paul II, who emphasized the benefits of scientific and technological advances, which “demonstrate the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in the creative action of God” but at the same time remembered “interfering in one area of the ecosystem can not be separated from considering its consequences in other areas.” [109 Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 6: AAS 82 (1990), 150.] He proclaimed that the Church appreciates the contribution “of the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics and its technological application in agriculture and industry.” [110 Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 3, 1981), 3: L’Osservatore 4/2 (1981), 333.] Although he said also that this must not lead to an “indiscriminate genetic manipulation” [111 Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 7: AAS 82 (1990), 151.] ignoring the negative effects of these interventions. You can not curb human creativity. If you can not forbid an artist to express his creative ability, you can neither hinder those who possess special gifts for the development of science and technology, whose capabilities have been given by God for the service of others. At the same time, one can not help but reconsider the objectives, the effects, the context and the ethical limits of the human activity that is a form of power with great risks.

132. In this context should be located any reflection about the human intervention on the plant and animal world, which today involves genetic mutations produced by biotechnology in order to tap the opportunities present in the material reality. Respect for faith towards reason demands paying attention to what the same biological science, developed independently over economic interests, can teach about the biological structures and their possibilities and mutations. In any case, it is legitimate intervention that affects the nature “to help it develop according to its essence, that of creation, that willed by God.” [112 John Paul II, Address to the thirty-fifth General Assembly of the World Medical Association (29 October 1983), 6: AAS 76 (1984), 394.]

133. It is difficult to give an overall judgment on the development of genetically modified organisms (GMO), plant or animal, for medical purposes or in agriculture, since they can be very different and require different considerations. Instead, the risks are not always attributed to the same technique, but its inadequate or excessive application. In fact, genetic mutations have happened many times and are produced by nature itself. Even those caused by humans are not a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossing of species and other universally accepted traditional practice can fit into these considerations. It should be remembered that the beginning of scientific developments on transgenic cereals has been the observation of bacteria that naturally and spontaneously produced a change in the genome of a plant. However in nature these processes have a slow pace, which is not comparable to the speed set by current technological advances, even when such advances are based on a scientific development of centuries.

134. Although we have no definitive evidence about the damage that transgenic grains could cause to humans, and in some regions, their use has produced economic growth that has helped solve some problems, there are significant problems that should not be minimized. In many areas, following the introduction of these crops, there has been a concentration of productive land in the hands of a few, due to the “gradual disappearance of small producers, who, in consequence of the loss of cultivated land, have been forced to retreat from direct production.” [113 Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral of Argentina, A tierra para todos (June 2005), 19.] The most vulnerable among them become temporary workers and many farm workers migrate end up in miserable urban settlements. The spread of these crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present or the future of regional economies. In several countries there is a trend in the development of oligopolies in the production of seeds and other products needed for cultivation, and the dependence deepens when you consider the production of sterile seeds, which would end up forcing farmers to buy from producers.

135. No doubt there is need of constant attention, which leads to consider all ethical aspects involved. To this end it is necessary to ensure a scientific and social debate that is responsible and large, able to consider all the information available and to call things by their name. Sometimes one do not put on the table the full information, but it is selected according to one’s interests, be they political, economic or ideological. This makes it difficult to develop a balanced and prudent judgment on the various issues, taking into account all the variables involved. We must have places of debate in which all those who somehow could be directly or indirectly involved (farmers, consumers, authorities, scientists, seed producers, people close to the treated field and others) set out their problems with access to extensive and reliable information to make decisions oriented to the common present and future good. The issue of GMOs is one that is complex, that must be approached with a sympathetic look in all its aspects, and this would require at least one more effort to finance several lines of independent and interdisciplinary research that they can bring new light.

136. On the other hand, it is worrying that some environmental movements defend the integrity of the environment, and with reason reclaim limits to scientific research, and sometimes do not apply these same principles to the human life. Often it justifies that go beyond all limits when experimenting with human embryos alive. It forgets that the inalienable value of a human being goes far beyond the degree of its development. Equally, when technology does not recognize the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice legitimate. As we have seen in this chapter, technology separated from ethics is unlikely to be able to self-limit its own power.