You may be surprised to hear that the Pope’s most recent encyclical, Laudato Si– which I recommend highly as a beautifully written piece of theology — has a few things to say about food policy, animal research and biotechnology.
I am not Catholic and I am in no position to proselytize. But I believe it is our professional responsibility to understand the Catholic Church’s teachings on those issues that are under the jurisdiction of FDA and USDA. Public policy is about people, after all, and this Pope’s special charge is helping as many of the world’s people as possible.
On scientific research generally: “We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems.”
On pharmaceutical research: “The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them.” (Sir 38:4.)
On animal testing: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only “if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives”. The Catechism firmly states that human power has limits and that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly”. All such use and experimentation “requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2415-18.]
On food waste: “[W]e know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.” [Catechesis (5 June 2013): Insegnamenti 1/1 (2013), 280.]
On pesticides and herbicides: “Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects that disappear due to synthetic agro-toxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful.”