I drove to Gackle, N.D., Sunday to attend a meeting at a Lutheran church about genetically engineered crops.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – the same branch that is in lots of hot water in conservative North Dakota for saying it is okay for gays to serve as ministers in its churches -- has drafted a social statement on genetic engineering to be voted on in October at a church-wide assembly in Chicago.
The ELCA has adopted social statements on many topics including the environment, immigration and sexuality. The statements are supposed to be policy guides.
The draft statement doesn’t directly say that GMOs are bad. But it and accompanying documents note that some people argue that GMOs could harm the environment, endanger the food supply, hurt organic farmers by contaminating their grain and further impoverish poor farmers in third-world countries who can’t afford to buy the high-tech seed. It calls for government regulators to look at “long-term, economical, social and economic impacts of GMOs.”
“Why is the ELCA doing this?” asked Sarah Wilson, one of about 30 people who attended the meeting. Wilson farms with her husband, Jeremy, near Jamestown, N.D., and is on the staff of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.
The draft statement will only serve to “scare” consumers and “polarize” farmers, she said.
Wilson said radical animal rights and environmental activists have apparently infiltrated the ELCA. She said she expected the groups will cite the social statement as evidence of general opposition to modern farming practices.
She cited several examples of the link between the groups and the ELCA.
“I wish,” Wilson said “I was making this up.”
Some of the other farmers who spoke at the hearing said they thought raising GMO crops was good, Christian thing to do because they could produce more food.
One man who operated a organic custom combining business said cross pesticide drift was a serious economic problem for organic farmers.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Eastern North Dakota Synod Bishop Bill Rindy said he was pleased to hear the concerns about the social statement. He encouraged everyone to send him specific changes to the draft statement.
While driving back to Fargo, I couldn’t help but notice the fine-looking fields of corn and soybeans.
I bet 85-90% were GMOs.