Catholic priest urges religious leaders to advocate for science 

By Richmond Frimpong

October 15, 2019

The Rev. Emmanuel “Father Noli” Alparce, a Catholic priest in the Philippines, has called on religious leaders to advocate for scientific innovations across the world.

He wants them to take an active interest in promoting the works of scientists and scientific innovations to ensure greater acceptance by the populace because humanity cannot live without technology.

Noli’s observations come in the midst of an intense global debate on one aspect of agricultural innovation — the production and consumption of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Despite their vast potential to help deal with food security challenges, GM crops are currently grown in only 26 countries as a result of regulatory barriers and anti–GM activities.

Noli noted that religious leaders, particularly Christian leaders and chief imams, play a key function in formulating policy across the world and can influence the decision-making processes at any given time. Their involvement in science advocacy stands the chance of dispelling misgivings against genetic engineering, he said.

“If you acknowledge the works of your doctors, nutritionists and other scientific works, why oppose genetically modified food, which is also the work of another scientist?” Noli asked.

“If genetic engineering is to be vilified due to its power to change individuals, then it means most medical intervention should be condemned as well,” he added.

Speaking to the 2019 Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows Program at Cornell University on “the moral and ethical dimensions of biotechnology and genetic engineering,” Noli said that many people in the Philippines do not go to church and fellowship on Sundays due to hunger and poverty. “You will see them in their homes instead of church halls,” he observed.

It is religiously unwise for God’s children to suffer from hunger in the era of biotechnology, Noli said, hence his urgent call for religious leaders to support these agricultural tools and their role in protecting biodiversity.

Noli is concerned that a person who is poor or hungry cannot praise God and would, in the end, blame God for creating him or her.

According to Noli, who was a 2015 Global Fellow, biotech promotes the integrity of creation. “And it contributes to the protection of the environment by reducing the use of and dependence on pesticides and toxic chemicals for controlling pests,” he added.

Genetic engineering offers a spectacular step forward that can drive the world to produce more food to feed the growing population and provide best practices on dealing with climate change, he said. However, he acknowledged that nothing in this world is 100 percent safe.

“It is difficult to actually and quantitatively predict the consequences of new technologies,” Noli conceded. “On the other hand, it will be virtually impossible for humans to exist without biotechnology.”