| Though these groups
differ on their viewpoints about the wording of such a law, all agree
that Turkey strongly needs a bio-security law. According to some, GMOs
are science’s answer to the threat of global hunger, but for others,
they pose a great threat to public health and the ecosystem.
global food shortages looming on the horizon, the government has
decided to regulate the agricultural sector to ensure food safety. The
name and the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs
has even been changed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
week, while discussing a proposed national bio-security law, State
Minister Cemil Çiçek said the law would be in accordance with European
Union regulations and would lay down strict regulations and control
mechanisms in the production of GMOs, such as banning them near organic
farms and prohibiting their use in baby food.
Consumers skeptical about GMOs
bio-security bill has been opened up for the signatures of ministers,
but has not yet been made public. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food
has said the bill was drawn up with input from relevant civil society
organizations, but Kemal Özer, chairman of the Health and Food Safety
Movement, claims that the bill has been deliberately kept hidden from
the public eye because it serves the interests of international firms
that produced GMOs.
Groups that oppose GMOs say they have many
reasons to be against them. One argument they make is that because the
production of GMOs requires advanced technology, only large firms will
be able to undertake GMO research and development, giving them complete
control over the global food market.
“Turkey definitely needs a
bio-security law; not for opening doors to the production and invasion
of GMOs, but to ban them. Anyway, GMOs have been on the market in
Turkey since 1996 without any control. We have plenty of land to
cultivate, and we definitely do not need food modified to include
animal genes,” Özer said.
According to Özer, the aim of the bill is to protect trade interests and international firms, not public health.
are harmful to human health and the ecosystem. People who defend them
present GMOs as a solution to many problems, but we call these satanic
promises. Prophet Adam and Eve were cheated by Satan and had to give up
paradise; the situation with GMOs is very similar to that. In the end,
what use is it to have a watermelon modified by [adding genes from] a
red bug?” he asked.
GMOs are questioned by Islam
Köksal from the F?rat University faculty of theology, who wrote a book
titled “Cloning from the Fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] Point of View,”
argued that if there is no vital need for it, genetic modification
contradicts with the rules of Islam.
“To modify genes means to
interfere with what God is created. An apple is a creation of God, so
are human beings, as parts of the greatest program. When we eat an
apple, our bodies are able to recognize the apple since both are parts
of the program. But if the apple is modified, our bodies are not able
to recognize it,” he said, adding that unless they are urgently needed
and we are facing global hunger, it is very difficult to argue that
GMOs are halal (permissible in Islam).
“What are the criteria
determining a vital need or the threat of hunger? We have vast empty
spaces that have not been cultivated,” he said.
Lack of technology is a concern
Da?han, a member of the executive board of the Chamber of Food
Engineers, underlined that Turkey is in need of a bio-security law, but
said his organization was not consulted during the drafting of the
current bill. He said decisions regarding the threat of GMOs to human
health should be made by scientists and that consumers have a right to
know if the foods they are buying contain GMOs.
claim that GMOs cause allergic reactions, increase immunity to
antibiotics and cause serious harm to the ecosystem, and other
scientists present them as a magical solution to many problems. We
should make them conduct more research into the benefits and the risks,
but we have to ask some other questions ourselves,” he said.
to Da?han, the first questions we should ask are about the philosophy
of a bio-security law and whether Turkey needs to produce GMOs.
should the philosophy of our bio-security law be? Should it protect the
interests of large multinational firms that produce GMOs or protect the
food safety of the public? Day by day, we are losing productive,
cultivatable land. There are approximately 500,000 acres of land in
Turkey that are productive but not cultivated, so we have to think
about whether we need GMOs, and the aim of the bio-security law should
be to protect the rights of consumers, our economy and the
environment,” Da?han said.
When reminded that the according to
the government the aim of the bio-security bill is to introduce strict
regulations and control over GMOs, Da?han said that such an oversight
system requires well-developed laboratories.
“GMOs are high-tech
products, and we don’t have this technology. We have some laboratories
that work well, but the number is limited. We should be able to detect
GMOs the moment they enter customs, but so far with the means that we
have, we are not able to do it,” he said.
Turkey Industrial Seed
Association Chairman Dr. Mete Kömea?aç is also concerned about Turkey’s
technological shortcomings when it comes to GMOs.
“First of all,
I want to underline that there are no GMO seeds in Turkey at all, and
unfortunately, Turkey is not ready for GMO technology. We should start
to prepare ourselves for this technology, we should learn about it,
establish laboratories and increase our practical knowledge about it.
If we start to import GMOs before preparing ourselves technologically,
we will be in the position of potential buyers, but if develop our own
technology, we can sit at the negotiating table with better footing,”
Özer is also concerned about Turkey’s technological capabilities, but for a different reason.
is very difficult to talk about food safety in this country. Even for
bread, there is no adequate control; when you bring it up, state
officials respond with the excuse of a lack of infrastructure for
oversight. Under these conditions, the claim that GMOs will be strictly
monitored does not sound believable,” he said.