Allowance for GMO-contaminated food sparks safety concerns
Hacer Boyacıoğlu ANKARA
According to the change made in the GMO Regulation, if a product has 0.9 percent GMOs, the amount will be classified as a 'GMO contaminant' and the commercialization of that product will be approvedThe Turkish Agriculture Ministry has permitted the production and sale of foods that have genetically-modified organism (GMO) contaminants with a regulation that triggered reactions from specialists, who dubbed the move as illegal and dangerous.
According to the change made in the GMO Regulation, if a product has 0.9 percent GMOs, the amount will be classified as a “GMO contaminant” and the commercialization of that product will be approved.
The “GMO contamination” concept was defined in the Turkish legal system for the first time with the new regulation that was published in the Official Gazette on May 29.
“If GMOs contaminate a product during the production, manufacturing, processing, preparation, transportation or storage stages or due to environmental reasons that cannot be avoided due to technical restraints or accidentally, it will be considered contaminated,” according to the new regulation.
If the genes detected in the product that have 0.9 percent or less GMO are permitted in Turkey, it will be able to be consumed.
Sector representatives and specialists are severely opposed to the change, arguing it will breach the Biosecurity Law and will lead to health risks that emerge from different calculation methods.
Ahmet Atalık, Istanbul branch head of Agriculture Engineers Chamber within the Turkish Chamber of Architects and Engineers’ (TMMOB), said the regulation is completely against the law and the 0.9 percent criteria is impossible to define scientifically.
“There is no GMO product allowed by the Biosecurity Law. The law, in summary, bans GMOs in infant food and products and supplementary foods. This regulation opens ways for GMOs in all of the foods we eat,” he said. “Moreover, there is nothing scientific about the 0.9 percent criteria,” he said.
The ministry denied the regulation will allow a GMO presence in foods, claiming it will only affect the legal process.
“If 0.9 percent GMOs are detected in a product it will still be recalled, destroyed or sent to the country it was imported from. Its usage will definitely not be permitted in the country,” a ministry official said.
“The only change will be in the legal process. As our current law doesn’t have a definition for contamination, everybody is tried with the demand of 10 years in jail. This regulation will end this,” the official said.
However, a Turkish anti-GMO group, “GDO’ya Hayır Platformu [‘No to GMOs Platform’],” said the amendment paves the way for the usage of 14 types of corn and three soy types with GMOs in foods, including infant food.
Emre Baturay Altınok, lawyer for Consumer Rights Association, said the organization will apply to the State Council on June 2 with the demand to annul the regulation.
There will be no meaning to analyzing the presence of GMOs after this regulation comes into effect, Altınok said.
He also added the regulation will be the basis to ease punishments on GMO product imports.
The regulatory change came two days after the Bursa provincial directorate of food, agriculture and livestock said they have detected GMOs in the infant formula Milupa Aptamil Multigrain.
Following the discovery, they sent notices to every province to withdraw certain products from the company, Gıda Güvenliği Hareketi (Food Security Movement) said on its website.