The policy, on the advice of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), allows for investment in companies developing and marketing GMOs (genetically modified organisms) where there is satisfactory assurance on, and confidence in, ethical standards.
Agricultural land and timberland will have to pass GM due diligence tests to be included in investments. The conduct of GM field trials on land owned by the national investing bodies would be inconsistent with the policy.
James Featherby, Chair of the EIAG, said: “There is no single Christian perspective on genetic modification. The EIAG recognises the potential benefits of responsibly conducted GM such as pest resistance, vitamin supply, and improved resilience to drought, frost and saline conditions.
“We are also conscious that genetic modification represents a paradigm shift in plant and animal breeding and that there remain uncertainties about the effects of the application of the technology.
“The EIAG concluded that it is important that the investment practice of the national investing bodies should be consistent with a careful and precautionary approach to genetic modification.”
The policy sets down detailed guidelines on how the investing bodies should judge whether a company developing and marketing GMOs is operating in an ethically appropriate and duly precautionary way.
It also sets out detailed guidelines for decision-making on exposure to GMOs through agricultural land and timberland.
The Church Commissioners are significant landowners in the UK. However, the European Union and its member states continue to take a restrictive approach to genetic modification, and there is no commercial planting of genetically modified crops in the UK.
In 2000, the EIAG advised the Commissioners (and other Church landowners, such as dioceses) against approving GM trials on their farmland. The updated policy announced today advises that the cultivation of GM crops on land owned by the national investing bodies should be restricted to ‘well established GMOs that are broadly accepted in the country concerned’.
For more information on the Church of England’s policy on GMOs, click here.