The advantages of GM crops seemed, for lack of a better word, miraculous.

They were certainly a blessing. As we produced an abundance of food, we became better able to help the needy here in New Jersey. A group of us formed Farmers Against Hunger. Biotech crops gave us a powerful new tool to generate surplus food and turn it into meals for our neighbors.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences understood the possibilities. Although its report didn’t amount to an official church teaching, it gave moral weight to the case for GM crops.

“We urge those who oppose or are skeptical about the use of genetically engineered crop varieties and the application of modern genetics generally to evaluate carefully the science, and the demonstrable harm caused by withholding this proven technology from those who need it most,” said the academy.

Vatican City may be tiny in size–at 110 acres, it’s smaller than my farm–but it’s also a sovereign state. In Europe, no government has a more advanced and charitable view of how to defeat hunger and malnutrition.


Want access to the very latest in agriculture news each day? Sign up for the Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.


Not that the Vatican has a lot of competition. The European Union’s disapproval of GM crops is both ignorant and tragic. It’s bad enough that farmers in France, Italy, and Poland can’t grow GM crops the way we do in the United States and throughout the Western hemisphere. It’s even worse that European attitudes still shape the policies of many former European colonies, especially in Africa.

Because of Europe’s unscientific views, many developing nations have refused to adopt the hunger-fighting, life-saving tools of biotechnology. As a result, people who have the most to gain are undernourished or starving.

The Roman Catholic Church often comes under harsh criticism for its throwback ways. I still remember when our church held Sunday Mass in Latin.

When it comes to the technology of food production, however, the Vatican remains true to its oldest principles while also standing at the forefront of science.

Let’s hope Pope Francis shares this humane vision–and that Europe and the rest of the world join biotechnology’s growing flock.

John Rigolizzo, Jr. is a fifth generation farmer, raising fresh vegetables and field corn in southern New Jersey. The family farm produces for retail and wholesale markets. John is a volunteer board member of Truth About Trade & Technology (

More from Western Farm Press

Death, liberty, Cheetos, and the American way

Photos: U.S. agriculture hopeful in 2013

Hemp farming nears historic return to American agriculture