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a Resolution on Food Security

This resolution submitted to the Executive Council Committee on National Concerns by the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith 12 October 2002

Submitted to the Executive Council Committee on National Concerns
by the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith
12 October 2002

 Resolved, the House of_____________ concurring, That the mind of this 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church reflect the conclusions of the Executive Council Committee on Science, Technology and Faith in its capacity of providing to the Church informed conclusions concerning the intersection of Science and Technology with the Faith life of Episcopalians.  We believe that Christians are called by God to be stewards of and delighters in God’s world.  One crucial implication of this call is to protect the diversity of God’s Creation.   In the light of this claim, we urge Episcopalians in their corporate, community and individual action to integrate national and international food security into their understanding of Christian responsibility by 
o supporting public policy and actions that foster research and development of the types of science and technology that preserve biodiversity in food production.  “Biodiversity  in food production” refers to the maintenance of a healthy relationship among varieties of food crops and species on which they depend.   
o becoming informed about trade conditions and intellectual property practices that exacerbate the tendency of genetic modification technologies to reduce biodiversity in food production, and
o supporting and participating in programs that protect farming and farmlands and promote intentional purchases of food produced locally.

 Since 2000, the Executive Council's Committee on Science, Technology and Faith has examined the validity of claims for genetic engineering to alleviate world hunger.  The Committee takes the position that
1. The limited timeframe and context in which research has been conducted has produced insufficient data for full agreement on the environmental and biosafety implications of genetically modified plants and food.

2. The primary burden of responsibility should lie with producers of technology to assure consumer and environmental safety, rather than with consumers to prove harm.

3. The use of genetically modified seeds is likely to lock farmers into an approach to food production that reduces the need for human stewardship skills and requires more expensive seeds and increased, costly chemical inputs.  

4.  Particularly in impoverished nations, this exacerbates existing trends in which the diversity of foods produced for local consumption is replaced by production of monoculture crops (the practice of planting a single genetic variant of a single crop species, rather than multiple varieties and species) for export.  This leaves food producers’ ability to pay for imported food for themselves dependent on the success of such export crops in international agricultural markets. 

 The Committee has in addition become very aware of the cumulative effects of changes affecting production, distribution and consumption of food in the US and internationally.  What was once called a "farm crisis" is now called a "food revolution".  

 For decades in the US, industrialized food production and a continually decreasing amount of the food dollar returned to the food producers have caused serious secular and faith community concern.  A small number of corporations have increased their market share in owning and cultivating resources to produce, manufacture, process, and market food.  Millions of farmers, ranchers, and fishermen and thousands of communities have been dislocated.  Food producers’ independence has diminished:  fewer and fewer corporations control ownership of seed development and patents, and they utilize interlocking arrangements in which seed or stock, chemicals, and plant technology are all part of a given contract.

 In the last decade, food producers as suppliers of raw materials have been denied a fair share in the value-added economic activity of the food system that extends from the grower to the consumer.  Less food is being produced and consumed locally; domestic food products are directed at international markets; and domestic infrastructures to support production aimed at regional markets have been reduced. The rate of agribusiness corporate mergers has accelerated, and corporate consolidation has virtually eliminated competition among buyers of food products, leaving many producers unable to bargain over prices they receive.  

 The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, generate additional concern for national food security.  Domestic food systems are vulnerable due to reliance on long-distance crop shipments. And the clash of paradigms over use and protection of knowledge between developing and developed countries reinforces perceptions of unbridgeable differences between the interests of rich and poor nations. 

 The Committee asserts that biodiversity in food production manifests the variety in God's Creation and the central roles of caring and relatedness within God's Kingdom.  Humans steward local varieties of seeds and pass them down over generations.  In millions of different microclimates women and men use their knowledge of local conditions to feed their families. Finally, Jesus' preferential option for the poor is a compelling argument against domination of countries' seed and food production by large-scale commercial interests.

 The Committee rejects claims that treating plants and animals solely as food production units and eliminating their cultivation as a value-added human process ultimately alleviates hunger.  The Committee believes that in impoverished countries the transformation of food production for local use into production of export crops substitutes trade conditions for food sustainability and allows hungry people to be losers in international markets.

 The Committee believes that monoculture food production practices frequently require increased inputs of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that have known adverse effects upon microorganisms and surrounding plant and animal species.  The Committee believes subsidized transportation to bring food to market over large distances has hidden environmental costs of greenhouse gas emissions and soil, air and water contamination harmful to biologically diverse ecosystems.  The Committee further questions the claim that the cultivation of genetically modified seeds reduces the need to use pesticides and herbicides.  

 The kinds of science and technology predominantly used in industrial food production have resulted in the reduction of diversity in ecosystems, habitats, and species, as well as in genetic variation within species.  This trend has been accelerated by the energy-intensive agriculture introduced by the Green Revolution's new seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.  Today, interdependence of regional ecosystems enforced by political and economic structures makes this trend a matter of urgent concern.  Science and technology must be directed toward promoting sustainability in food production in the long term.   

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