GMOs shall not pass borders, Turkish agricultural minister declares
Ministry of Health recently launched a campaign to promote healthy eating habits. The animated series 'Organikos' aim to teach children about fruits and vegetables in an entertaining way.Turkey will never produce vegetables or plants with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker said at a March 23 meeting with editors from the Anatolian news agency.
“It is forbidden to produce any plants or vegetables in Turkey that have been genetically altered or genetically transferred. This is not happening, has never happened and will never happen,” said Eker, stressing that Turkey had passed a law on bio safety that had been approved by the United Nations General Directorate.
Eker explained that despite pressure from various international organizations, Turkey had never imported or produced GMOs, unlike other countries. Furthermore, Turkey has established a bio safety committee to make sure that no imported produce contains any genetically modified organisms. This nine member committee is comprised of individuals from the Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Ministry, as well as the Health and Environment Ministry, in addition to members from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities. When looking at a specific product, the committee decides whether or not it poses a safety threat to human safety, animal safety, environmental safety, or any socio-economic risks, said Eker.
Turkey only allows for the import of genetically modified corn and soya used for animal feed, which is then processed by the animal and is in no way harmful to animal or human health, said Eker. It is not used as a food item.
However, Tarık Nehat Dinç, who runs the Green Peace Turkey campaign against GMOs told the Hürriyet Daily News in a phone interview that the use of genetically modified animal feed still introduces GMOs into agriculture and is risky. He claims that a study conducted in Italy in 2006 showed that one out of four packages of milk from cows that had been consuming genetically modified feed had traces of GMO DNA particles.
“What we want is for the government to make sure that there are labels on milk, eggs, meat and cheese, saying that these products come from animals that have been fed genetically modified feed.”
Dinç also said that there were currently 29 GMO agricultural products being examined by the bio safety committee and that if these products are deemed safe they will be allowed into the country for food consumption and used in products like corn syrup and canola oil.
Meanwhile, Eker also said that he found the recent boom in ad campaigns for honey alarming and exaggerated.
“Right now we are conducting serious market research regarding honey and taking samples. If we find any problems, there will be serious penalties,” said Eker. He also stressed that they were keeping close tabs on all the honey advertisements and that within as short a span as ten-days they would be ready to disclose the names of companies that have altered the composition of honey on the ministry’s official web site.
Deniz Gürgen from Istanbul contributed to this report.