TURKEY WORKİNG TO FORM POLİCY ON GENETİCALLY MODİFİED ORGANİSMS - TURKİSH DAİLY NEWS - MAYIS'2005

GENEL MERKEZ
25.05.2005 (Son Güncelleme: 30.05.2005 16:14:33)

Turkey working to form policy on genetically modified organisms - Part II

Risk to biological (and career) diversity

MICHAEL KUSER

ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

The introduction of transgenic crops is especially sensitive in Turkey, which boasts a rich biological stock with over 12,000 species of flora and fauna. This compares to 13,000 in all of Europe.

 Archeologists have found the earliest strains of domesticated wheat in the fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia, specifically at a site in present day Turkey near the Syrian border. A bio-engineering scientist in Turkey with five years of experience in DNA testing of transgenic crops said that she came to the subject with an open mind, "neither for nor against, but now the risk side seems to outweigh the benefits for me."

She declined to reveal her name while pursuing a court case against her university for this month reassigning her to another department and taking her lab away. The researcher had raised funds from government and industry (80,000 euros from the State Planning Organization and 175,000 euros from Turkish food conglomerate Ülker) to set up an independent laboratory. She was days away from final stage testing on seed samples gathered around Turkey when the news came from her rector.

The chairman of the Agricultural Engineers Association, Gökhan Günaydın, said they were aware of the woman'S SİTUATİON AND WERE WRİTİNG A FORMAL LETTER OF SUPPORT. "WHERE THE PRESSURE COMES FROM İS NOT CLEAR, EXCEPT THAT THE SAME PRESSURE İS COMİNG TO OUR ASSOCİATİON," HE SAİD. "THEY BLAME US AS ANTİ-GMO ACTİVİSTS, BUT I STOOD UP İN PARLİAMENT LAST MONTH AND SAİD THAT WE HAVE NO FİNANCİAL TİES TO ANY OF THESE COMPANİES, UNLİKE CERTAİN ACADEMİCİANS WHO HAVE A SALARY FROM THEİR UNİVERSİTY AND AT THE SAME TİME, TAKE MONEY AS CONSULTANTS TO İNDUSTRY."

RESEARCHERS İN THE UK CONDUCTED TESTS ON THE EFFECTS ON BİO-DİVERSİTY OF GM OİL SEED RAPE AND CORN, STUDYİNG THE AMOUNT OF WEED SEEDS AND BİOMASS LEFT AFTER HARVEST. OVERALL RESULTS SHOWED A DETRİMENTAL EFFECT ON WİLD PLANTS AND ANİMALS, THOUGH İNİTİAL LOWER RATES OF HERBİCİDE APPLİCATİON WİTH THE CORN CROP BENEFİTED İNSECTS AND BİRDS.

THE TROUBLE İN TURKEY İS THAT THE GOVERNMENT İS TRYİNG TO PLEASE ALL SİDES -- THE PUBLİC, THE EU AND THE UNİTED STATES.

"THE MİNİSTRY (AGRİCULTURE) HAS CHANGED İTS TUNE EVERY TİME, FROM NO GM SEEDS AT ALL, TO ONLY SOME, TO NO GM GRAİN İMPORTS, TO ONLY THOSE FOR ANİMAL FEED," SAİD THE UNİVERSİTY RESEARCHER. FOR EXAMPLE, GÜNAYDIN CİTED A STUDY AT MİDDLE EASTERN TECHNİCAL UNİVERSİTY (METU) THAT FOUND GM TOMATO SEEDS İN TURKEY. "THE MİNİSTER OF AGRİCULTURE SAİD İT WAS NOT TRUE, THAT TESTİNG WAS COMPLİCATED AND THAT THE SCHOOL MUST HAVE MADE A MİSTAKE, BUT METU RESEARCHER CANDAN GURAKAN CAME BACK AND ASSERTED THAT FOREİGN LABS HAD CONFİRMED THE FİNDİNGS," HE SAİD.

 EVERYONE İNTERVİEWED AGREED THAT TURKİSH CUSTOMS DOES NOTHİNG TO CONTROL THE İMPORTATİON OF GMO SEEDS. "CUSTOMS DOES ABSOLUTELY NO TESTİNG, ONLY ACCEPTİNG THE İMPORTER's declaration," said Günaydın. The temporarily anonymous university researcher said she believes "GM corn and soy to be growing, Turkey'S TWO LARGEST CROPS, AND OF COURSE WE ALREADY FOUND TOMATOES."

TESTİNG İS DİFFİCULT İF YOU DON't know what you'RE LOOKİNG FOR, SUCH AS İS REQUİRED WİTH PROTEİN-SPECİFİC FİELD TESTS. RESEARCHERS WORRY ABOUT THE RİSK TO BİODİVERSİTY BECAUSE THE NEWLY İNTRODUCED TRAİTS COME FROM DOMİNANT GENES, WHİCH MEAN THEY MAY BE VERY DİFFİCULT, İF NOT İMPOSSİBLE, TO BREED OUT. THE WOMAN MENTİONED AMERİCAN APPROVAL OF PATENTED CROPS İN IRAQ AS A REAL DANGER TO TURKEY's huge GAP irrigation project in the Southeast. The risk from cross-pollination is very real to one of the country'S MOST İMPORTANT AGRİCULTURAL PRODUCTİON AREAS.

"I HEAR THEY ARE PASSİNG OUT FREE SAMPLES OF THE SEED İN MANİSA AND ADİPAZARİ, CORN SEED," SAİD THE BESİEGED RESEARCHER. "THE MİNİSTRY JUST DOESN't want to be the one to say GMOs already exist in Turkey."

BOX

Genetic modification for agricultural purposes aims at either making a plant poisonous to insects or tolerant to various herbicides. The most famous herbicide-related treatment prepares a plant to tolerate glyophosphate, a weed-killer patented by Monsanto and marketed under the trade name Roundup. Crop seed bio-engineered to tolerate the herbicide is marketed as Roundup Ready.

Chemical companies involved in the business of developing biotechnology for agricultural applications aim to "stack" the genetic traits, so that a corn resistant to certain herbicides may also contain a protein toxic to insects. The most common form of built-in pesticide comes from transferring a gene from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, into a plant, say corn, which then renders the corn'S LEAF TİSSUE TOXİC TO CATERPİLLARS, WHİCH FEED ON THAT CROP. CORN ENGİNEERED THİS WAY İS KNOWN AS BT CORN.

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