Home » Experts Agree Turkey Needs A Bio-Security Law, But Clash Over Content

Experts Agree Turkey Needs A Bio-Security Law, But Clash Over Content

News From : DagangHalal.com (14 Jun 2009)

The Turkish government’s effort to adopt a bio-security law, setting rules and regulations for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), has sparked discussions among civil society organizations, consumer advocacy groups, scientists and farmers.

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.

With 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.

Last week, while discussing a proposed national bio-security law, State Minister Cemil Cicek 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

The 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 Ozer, 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,” Ozer said.

According to Ozer, the aim of the bill is to protect trade interests and international firms, not public health.

“GMOs 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

Ismail Koksal from the Fırat 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

Kadir Daghan, 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.

“Some scientists 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.

According to Daghan, the first questions we should ask are about the philosophy of a bio-security law and whether Turkey needs to produce GMOs.

“What 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,” Daghan 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, Daghan 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 Komeagaç 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,” he said.

Ozer is also concerned about Turkey’s technological capabilities, but for a different reason.

‘It 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.

Source:Sunday’s Zaman

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