The Church Commissioners' stake in the manufacturer of the anti-impotence drug Viagra, worth around pounds 1m at the end of last year, has since doubled in value.
This weekend the commissioners' spokesman saw no moral problem in a Christian body making a mint from a sex drug. The black-market sale of the blue pills to healthy men in other countries who want to improve their sex lives simply underlined how good Britain's regulatory system was, he added.
However, the church investors are likely to face more serious questions about some of the other names on a list of their shareholdings, released to The Independent. Two arms manufacturers and three leading developers of genetically engineered products are among the substantial investments, along with other companies which have faced protests from campaigning groups.
The commissioners' shares in GEC and GKN, both of which have big defence arms, were worth a total of pounds 25.7m in December 1997. Stakes in Monsanto, Zeneca and Novartis, all of which are developing modified crops, were jointly worth pounds 36.7m compared with pounds 27.4m at the end of 1996. Since the list was compiled, the commissioners have sold their pounds 1.3m stake in Monsanto, citing commercial reasons.
Other shareholdings included pounds 66m in BP and pounds 67m in Shell, both of which have faced environmental protests, as well as pounds 11m in Rio Tinto Zinc, a mining company which has been targeted by campaigners on indigenous tribes' land rights.
Monsanto merger, page 23Reuse content