Cablegate: Turkey's Biotechnology Regime

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Turkey's Biotechnology Regime

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Not for
internet distribution.

1. This is in response to reftel request.

2. (SBU) Summary: Although Turkey has drafted regulations
pertaining to biotechnology, they have not been implemented.
Turkey permits the importation of genetically modified crops
although it does not permit use of bio-engineered seeds for
planting. Most Turkish officials, particularly those on the
regulatory side, have a poor understanding of biotechnology.
There is concern that a small number of influential
officials are spreading misinformation about the safety of
food and agricultural products developed using biotechnology
that will ultimately have a negative effect on consumer
perception and future legislation. End Summary.

3. (SBU) Biotechnology regulations in Turkey are limited
to a 1998 directive on field trials, which have since been
suspended. It is not clear whether the GOT will develop new
regulations concerning biotechnology soon. However,
Turkey's ratification of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol on
June 17, 2003 and its need to harmonize its regulations with
relevant EU directives in preparation for accession talks
may encourage the development of these regulations.

4. (SBU) The "Directive on the Principles of Field Trials
of Genetically Modified Organisms" was issued by the
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) in 1998. In
May 1998, several field trials were carried out at different
research institutes in the country. Specific crops tested
were corn, cotton and potatoes. Subsequently, an interagency
commission on "biotechnology and biosafety" requested that
all experiments be discontinued. As a result, there has been
no additional field testing of biotech crops in Turkey. At
the same time, there is no regulation in place that
regulates or penalizes those who do field testing without
MARA permission.

5. (SBU) In 2001, two draft directives were prepared, one
relating to the registration of genetically modified plants,
the other to the deliberate release of the GMOs into the
environment and their placement on the market. While these
directives never went into effect, they drew heavily if not
exclusively from EU directives. We would expect any future
legislation would also be designed to conform to EU
directives as well as the Biosafety Protocol

6. (SBU) Despite the potential benefits of producing BT
corn and cotton in Turkey, it is unlikely to occur in the
near future. Monsanto, a large biotech seed developer, has
abandoned plans to introduce biotech seeds in Turkey, and is
instead producing and exporting conventional corn seeds
which it markets to the EU.

Trade: Close Call
7. (SBU) In July 2000 MARA began developing regulations
which would have prohibited imports of all food and feed
products not accompanied by `GMO-free' certificates.
However, pressure from industry groups - primarily the
poultry industry and feed millers association - convinced
the GOT to suspend implementation. Since then, the GOT has
been much more engaged with industry representatives on this
issue. Hopefully, any future legislation would be more

8. (SBU) There are no requirements that food products or
feed containing GMOs be labelled. In the future, however,
Turkey may opt to require labelling of processed foods
containing GMO ingredients. Given past experience, the
threshold will be as low as the current EU directives. Some
companies voluntarily label their products "GMO Free" for
marketing purposes. However, there are no regulations
governing the use of these labels in Turkey.

Traceability System
9. (SBU) There are no traceability requirements for food or
feed in Turkey nor any regulations in place. No
documentation requirements have been announced and none are
in place concerning GMOs.

10. (SBU) Currently, no imported or domestic products are
being tested for GMO content. Although there is no
legislation in place, the Genetics Laboratory at the Ankara
Provincial Control Laboratory of Molecular Biology has been
staffed and equipped recently and is awaiting legislation to
begin their work to test imports and domestic products for
GMO content.

Ministry Oversight
11. (SBU) Currently, MARA has oversight for biotechnology
by default since no legislation specifies GOT authority on
this issue. Within MARA, Protection and Control (Quarantine
Service) should have the lead, but in reality the Production
and Development Agency is responsible. In the future,
responsibility for biotechnology may be spread among
different agencies including MARA and the Ministry of
Environment. In addition, a Biotechnology and Biosafety
Advisory Committee, which would include representatives from
MARA, Environment, Health, Forestry, State Planning Office,
and the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade may also play a
role in developing a national biosafety system as well as
legislation. One official indicated that the Biosafety
Advisory Committee would be `formed' in February 2004.

Comment: The Future
12. (SBU) It is inevitable that Turkey will adopt some
sort of legislation in the near future. In general, Turkish
regulatory officials appear to be uninformed about this
topic. Given past experiences, we would expect fairly
restrictive legislation. However, there are pro-
biotechnology voices including those in the agriculture
sector that have been advocating for a more liberal policy.


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