Environmental groups toured a "monster tomato" balloon around Turkey to protest the arrival of GMO tomatoes in the country in 2004. Photos via FoE Europe.
The fresh, colorful produce overflowing from market stalls and corner-store display stands even in Turkey's biggest city are evidence of the country's agricultural bounty, and the justifiable pride Turks take in the food they produce has made proposed new rules about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) controversial.The newly renamed Ministry of Agriculture and Food (formerly "agriculture and rural affairs") has drawn up a bio-security bill that is being considered by government ministers, but has not yet been made public, leading to conflicting reports about what the legislation contains and who it would benefit. Reports the English-language newspaper Today's Zaman:
Last 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.
...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.
In addition to the usual concerns about GMOs--including that they would threaten public health by causing allergic reactions and increasing antibiotic resistance, cause damage to ecosystems, and reinforce corporate control over the global food supply--religious objections are part of the opposition in Turkey, where some scholars say the technology contradicts the tenets of Islam.
“To modify genes means to interfere with what God [has] created," İsmail Köksal from the Fırat University faculty of theology told Today's Zaman. "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."
Activists from 30 civil-society groups who organized themselves under the GDO'ya Hayir Platformu (No to GMOs Platform) in March 2004 say they have already received much public support for their efforts in Turkey, where the cultivation of GMO crops is not allowed, but GM food produced in other countries is being sold without any testing or labeling. The country's varied climate supports 75 percent of all the plant species found in Europe, a richness that they say would be at risk if GMOs spread:
Turkey is a very rich country in biological diversity especially when compared to Europe. 2,000 out of our 11,000 plant species are endemic ones that exist nowhere else. Just like the underground resources or historical remains, the plant and animal species in a country are among the most important [re]sources of that country.
It might seem a bit of a stretch to equate eggplants with the historic ruins of Ephesus, but the country wouldn't be the same without either of them.
More on GMOs:
Out, Monsanto! No GMOs in National Wildlife Refuge, Says Federal Judge
Genetically Modified Foods “Biggest Environmental Disaster of All Time": Prince Charles
Do You Know What You Eat? Greenpeace's Ads Against Genetically Modified Organisms
Tanzanian NGO Boos GMOs on World Food Day
Survey: Can GMOs Increase Our Food Supply?
WorldWatch on GMOs
Monsanto pays $1M for GMO bribe
The Argument against GMO