“New humanism” will either be ecological or not exist at all. This is the essential message of the Ecclesial Convention in Florence (from 9 through 13 November). And the “ecological” challenge is for an “economy of Life”, instead of the “economy of death” and profit. The topic was discussed at the conference “Agroecology, a tool of the new humanism”, organized by the Agency of advanced services for agroecology and research Agernova, together with the association EcoFoodfertility and the Movement Eudonna – Women for Europe, in Rome, in the Basilica San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, on 31 October, with the patronage of the Experimental Zooprofilactic Institute in the South. And we will be talking about it for a long time in different Italian cities. On 28 November in Orvieto, 12 December in Acerra, in the so-called ”terra dei fuochi” (land of fires).
“Feminine thought”, which supports life, cannot step back in front of this strategic issue to build the “civilization of love”, called for by Pope Paul VI. Among the promoters of this symposium in Rome and the project of agroecology there is the Movement Eudonna – Women for Europe, with a Catholic background.
“We, women, and especially Catholic women, are the guardians par excellence of the right to life, health and peace, of which organic farming and a healthy diet are obligatory paths” says the president, Giovanna Sorbelli.
“In supporting this project, we have brought forward the instances of the mothers around the world. We are the bearers of life and we defend life. Not life created in a laboratory, which is a destruction of nature, with permanent damages to future generations”. Genetically modified organisms are “a violence to nature,” says Sorbelli: plant cells are replaced with animal cells, producing, thus, permanent changes in the DNA.
Therefore, it is an ethical and social commitment which collects Pope Francis’ invitation in the Encyclical Letter “Praised be”. “This project of defence of the environment and of the right to health coordinates specialists in different disciplines and people of good will, including three Presidents Emeriti of the Constitutional Court (Cesare Mirabelli, Riccardo Chieppa and Paolo Magdalene), with a Christian anthropological background: respect nature, agricultural cycles, and a healthy diet mean respect for God’s plan in Creation”.
“Let us not forget that we are earth ourselves (cf. Gen 2.7). Our body is composed of the elements of the planet, its air is the one that gives us breath and its water enlivens and rejuvenates us,” writes Pope Francis in “Praised be” (2). “We are what we eat”, stated, from a secular point of view, the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Anthropology is, at heart, ecology and, first and foremost, agroecology. As is health.
Experts say: “In Italy, 100 billion euros are spent every year on Health Service. Most of those money are spent on degenerative diseases, to which the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms in agriculture has largely contributed, according to the World Health Organization and Eurostat”, declares to In Terris Giuseppe Altieri, scientific coordinator, professor of Biotechnology, phytopathology, entomology, biological agriculture and agroecology applied to the Todi Agricultural Institute.
Italy has the highest rates of cancers among children, even new-borns. And there are 550 thousand new cases of cancer every year. Left alone the increase of cases of leukemia, coeliac disease, hormonal dysfunctions, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, multiple chemical sensitivity, food allergies and other diseases, along with the reduction of sound life expectancy (about ten years less).
From the data provided by the Higher Institute for Protection and Environmental Research (ISPRA) , for example, glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in Italy, sold by Monsanto, is harmful for human beings and animals. It causes abortions, infertility and genetic malformations, alterations in cell mitosis that can generate tumors, it kills amphibians and earthworms, pollutes springs and the aquifers, it damages flora and biodiversity.
“Half of the 70 Percent of the cultivated land is used to breed animals that eat an amount of food equal to that of 20 billion people. Whereas their meat, poisoned by chemical residues of pesticides and GMOs, feeds maximum 3 billion people,” explains Altieri. “And produces 50 percent of the greenhouse effect’ due to deforestation”. GMOs are filled with desiccant, which reduce water reserves, deprive land of humus, and a contributory cause of flood disasters. “The other 30 percent is destined to produce biofuel, where, in order to obtain 10 liters of biodiesel are consumed 15 liters of petroleum, while it could be used to produce eco-energy, low cost and without polluting, from electricity and even from water”.
Thus, reports Altieri, 20 percent of land cultivated in a traditional and natural way, feeds 80% of the world population. Those who argue that GMOs are used to feed the inhabitants of the planet, therefore, gives a slap in the face of truth and of the right to health. Hunger in the world is caused not by lack of food, but by its uneven distribution.
Those who say that GMOs are more convenient from an economic perspective lie. “The only ones who profit from this kind of agriculture., which is erroneously called ‘integrated’ – by the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers – are multinational companies and dealers”, continues Altieri. “In the European directives, integrated agriculture implies a priority and mandatory use of biological techniques. In the discipline of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, it was transformed into an authorization of the use of the listed pesticides”. More than 300 in EU.
Altieri continues: “Europe puts at the disposal of the Plans for rural development a support of 500 billion for the five-year plan 2015-2020, for Italy there are 70 billion euros. These resources exceed the amount needed for the agro-eco-biological conversion of our land”. Six billion euros a year would suffice.
European regulations plan a contribution to social service provided to the community by organic farmers, for the payment of lost revenues and higher costs: over 30% for the drop in land’s efficiency, about 30% percent for biotechnology, 20 percent for bureaucratic expenses and about 30 percent for any collective action.
As to the controversial Treaty on transatlantic trade and investment (TTIP) , which is currently being negotiated between United States and European Union, it would be contrary to the inviolable health and environmental rights protected by the Constitution (articles 9, 32, 41, 42, 44). Constitutionalists warn that there is a “precautionary principle”, which imposes the necessity to demonstrate that a product is not dangerous to allow the commercialization of a product in European countries. The right to health and to environmental protection is not delegated to international treaties.
Italy is at the bottom of the chart as to the use of pesticides : more than 30 percent of consumption on the old continent, about 150 thousand tonnes per year.