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Pope Warns of Risks of Genetically Engineered Food

Pope Warns on Biotech Health Risk
By FRANCES D'EMILIO
The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Dedicating Sunday to the world's farmers, Pope John Paul
II urged those who are developing new biotechnologies to keep a ``healthy
balance'' with nature to avoid putting people's lives at risk.

Tens of thousands of farmers and their families, most of them from Italy but
many from other countries and continents, crowded into St. Peter's Square on
a chilly, overcast day to attend Mass celebrated by the pope on the steps of
St. Peter's Basilica. The Mass was part of a Holy Year tribute to the world
of agriculture.

John Paul didn't cite any specific kind of biotechnology Sunday. But his
words picked up on a speech he gave Saturday evening in which he urged
rigorous scientific and ethical controls to avoid possible ``disaster for
the health of man and the future of the Earth'' from new agricultural
technologies.

On Sunday, the pope told the farmers in the square that ``if the world of
most refined techniques doesn't reconcile itself with the simple language of
nature in a healthy balance, the life of man will run ever greater risks, of
which already we are seeing worrying signs.''

John Paul didn't specify what signs he meant.

The 80-year-old pope looked tired and his breathing at times sounded labored
as he read his speech. Some 90 minutes into the ceremony, he consulted his
watch as if growing weary of the event. When he was leaving the square, he
briefly lost his balance on one of the basilica's steps. Two aides flanking
him quickly grabbed on to him and the pontiff was able to continue walking
down the steps to his ``popemobile.''

Hip surgery a few years ago and a chronic shuffle as he walks - a symptom of
Parkinson's disease - have made it difficult for the pontiff to get around.

Throughout the Holy Year called for by John Paul to mark the start of
Christianity's third millennium, various fields of work have had their day
at the Vatican, from politics to journalism to circuses.

John Paul told the farmers Sunday to ``resist the temptations of
productivity and profit that work to the detriment of the respect of
nature.'' Saying God entrusted land to mankind to take care of it, the pope
said: ``When you forget this principle, becoming tyrants and not custodians
of the Earth, sooner or later the Earth rebels.''

AP-NY-11-12-00 1449EST

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