April 22, 2009 / 6:36 PM / in 10 years

Gene technology threatens new racism: Vatican

GENEVA (Reuters) - Technology allowing parents to choose the genetic characteristics of their babies threatens to breed new forms of racism, the Vatican told a United Nations race conference on Wednesday.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 22, 2009. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Pope Benedict earlier this week said the heated U.N. forum, which several Western powers are boycotting to avoid giving legitimacy to criticism of Israel, was an important initiative to confront all forms of modern discrimination.

“The Holy See is also alarmed by the still latent temptation of eugenics that can be fueled by techniques of artificial procreation and the use of ‘superfluous embryos’,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican observer to the U.N. in Geneva said.

“The possibility of choosing the color of the eyes or other physical characteristic of a child could lead to the creation of a ‘subcategory of human beings’ or the elimination of human beings that do not fulfill the characteristics predetermined by a given society.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has cast a long shadow over the Geneva meeting that formally wraps up on Friday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made international headlines on its opening day on Monday when he denounced Israel as a racist state, prompting dozens of delegates to stream out.

Pro-Israeli and Jewish groups had urged the Vatican to boycott the meeting alongside Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Canada, and Israel.

But Tomasi said it was important for religious voices to be heard at such forums.

“In the fight against racism, faith communities play a major part,” he said.

He also cited concerns that “an increased fragmentation of social relations in our multicultural societies” and the world’s economic crisis has made vulnerable people even more so.

Editing by Louise Ireland

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