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Cablegate: Biotechnology Outreach in Turkey

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

110916Z Feb 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000801

SIPDIS


STATE FOR EB/TPP/ABT/BTT DEBORA MALAC, JACK BOBO
USDA FOR FAS/OA.BIG PAUL SPENCER
USDA FOR FAS/ICD SEAN CARMEDY


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EAGR KPAO TU
SUBJECT: Biotechnology Outreach in Turkey


Ref: State 15050


1. SUMMARY. TURKEY IS CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF
DEVELOPING REGULATIONS ON BIOTECHNOLOGY THAT COULD HAVE
WIDE REPERCUSSIONS ON U.S. TRADE. MOREOVER, AS A
FUTURE CANDIDATE FOR EU MEMBERSHIP, TURKEY'S ACCEPTANCE
OF A LIBERAL POLICY ON THE USE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY MIGHT
ALSO INFLUENCE EU POLICIES. POST, THEREFORE, BELIEVES
THAT AN ACTIVE OUTREACH PROGRAM ON BIOTECHNOLOGY WOULD
BE MOST USEFUL IN TURKEY. END SUMMARY.


-----------------
CURRENT SITUATION
-----------------


2. THE CURRENT TURKISH GOVERNMENT HAS IDENTIFIED THE
DEVELOPMENT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY LEGISLATION AS A PRIORITY.
REGULATIONS THAT PARALLEL EU DIRECTIVES HAVE BEEN
DRAFTED, HOWEVER NO ACTION HAS BEEN TAKEN TO IMPLEMENT
THEM. THERE ARE NO BIOTECH REGULATIONS THAT AFFECT
TRADE IN TURKEY WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE CARTAGENA
BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL THAT THE TURKISH PARLIAMENT RATIFIED
IN 2003. THERE IS HOWEVER, A PROHIBITION ON PLANTING
ANY BIOENGINEERED CROPS. 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. ANNUALLY, THE
UNITED STATES EXPORTS APPROXIMATELY USD 250 MILLION OF
CORN AND SOYBEAN PRODUCTS FOR FEED, UP TO USD 100
MILLION OF CORN AND SOYBEAN OIL AND USD 200 - USD 300
MILLION OF COTTON TO TURKEY. THUS FAR, THERE ARE NO
PROHIBITIVE LABELING REQUIREMENTS FOR PRODUCTS
CONTAINING GENETICALLY MODIFIED INGREDIENTS.


---------------------
OVERWHELMING RESPONSE
---------------------


3. POST HAS UTILIZED SEVERAL PROGRAMS TO CONDUCT
BIOTECHNOLOGY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES OVER THE PAST YEAR.
IN SEPTEMBER, FAS/ANAKARA RECRUITED SEVERAL PRO-BIOTECH
EU SPEAKERS TO DISCUSS CURRENT POLICIES AND LEGISLATION
IN BIOTECHNOLOGY IN ANKARA. ALTHOUGH ONLY 250 PEOPLE
WERE INVITED TO ATTEND THE ALL-DAY SEMINAR, MORE THAN
400 PEOPLE REQUESTED INVITATIONS. ATTENDEES WERE
PRIMARILY REGULATORS, UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS AND
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
REQUESTED TRAINING AND ADDITIONAL SEMINARS ON THE
ISSUE. TWO TURKISH REGULATORS HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED AND
WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN THE INTERNATIONAL VISITORS
PROGRAM THIS YEAR ON BIOTECHNOLOGY. THE MINISTRY OF
AGRICULTURE RECENTLY SENT A LIST OF 10 REGULATORS FOR
TRAINING IN THE UNITED STATES ON FEDERAL REGULATIONS.


4. Many officials from the ministries of Agriculture and
Health are privately supportive of biotechnology and the
potential benefits the technology may hold for Turkish
producers. However, many others - in key positions - are
quite skeptical and misinformed and as a result are
spreading misinformation about the safety of biotechnology
to their colleagues and superiors. For example, after
hearing a sound science-based presentation on the safety of
bio-engineered foods from another scientist, a Turkish
biologist responded that she would still never eat `those
foods'. A general lack of information prevails.


--------------------
PROPOSALS FOR TURKEY
--------------------


5. POST BELIEVES THAT A SPEAKER PROGRAM IN TURKEY
WOULD BE MOST BENEFICIAL AND OUR FIRST PRIORITY. POST
HAS A NUMBER OF CONTACTS IN DIFFERENT CITIES THAT WOULD
BENEFIT AND APPRECIATE INFORMATION ON THE BENEFITS OF
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE U.S. REGULATORY APPROACH TO THIS
ISSUE. FAS/ANKARA HAS HAD OFFERS FROM RESEARCH
INSTITUTES AND UNIVERSITIES TO HELP HOST SUCH EVENTS IN
ANKARA AND IZMIR. THE SPEAKER PROGRAM WOULD ALSO ALLOW
US TO REACH A GREATER NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS.


6. OUR SECOND PRIORITY WOULD BE TO HOST A GROUP OF
REGULATORS/RESEARCHERS IN THE UNITED STATES EITHER IN A
WORKSHOP OR TO MEET U.S. COUNTERPARTS ON THIS ISSUE.
POST ALREADY HAS A LIST OF 10 PEOPLE SUBMITTED BY THE
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE FOR THE COCHRAN FELLOWSHIP
PROGRAM. HOWEVER, INSUFFICIENT FUNDS WILL NOT ALLOW
ALL OF THESE CANDIDATES TO PARTICIPATE. ADDITIONAL
OFFICIALS FROM THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH WOULD ALSO
BENEFIT FROM THIS TRAINING AND ESTABLISHING CONTACTS IN
THE UNITED STATES. THESE CONTACTS COULD BE MOST
BENEFICIAL IN HELPING TURKISH OFFICIALS RESPOND TO
FUTURE QUESTIONS.


EDELMAN

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