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Cablegate: Turkey's New Bio-Safety Law

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

211146Z Oct 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 005980

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: Turkey's New Bio-safety Law

Ref: Ankara 00801

Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. AFTER YEARS OF DELAYS, TURKEY IS
POISED TO PASS A FAR-REACHING BIO-SAFETY LAW, WHICH
COULD RESTRICT ALL IMPORTS AND PRODUCTION OF BIO-
ENGINEERED PRODUCTS, INCLUDING AGRICULTURAL AND
POSSIBLY PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS. THE FRAMEWORK LAW IS
QUITE GENERAL AND, GIVEN PAST EXPERIENCE, THE
REGULATIONS, WHICH MUST STILL BE WRITTEN, COULD BE MORE
RESTRICTIVE. THE TIME FRAME FOR PASSAGE IS THREE TO
SIX MONTHS, ACCORDING TO GOT SOURCES. THE DEVELOPMENT
OF ALL ASSOCIATED REGULATIONS USUALLY TAKES ONE YEAR.
IN THE MEANTIME, BIOTECHNOLOGY HAS DRAWN CONSIDERABLE
NEGATIVE COVERAGE IN THE MEDIA. DESPITE HAVING YEARS TO
PREPARE, THE AFFECTED INDUSTRIES ARE UNPREPARED TO
HANDLE THE PUBLICITY AND MAY ALSO BE LATE TO ACT IN
LOBBYING THE GOVERNMENT FOR MORE RATIONAL LEGISLATION.
MANY COMPANIES AND INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS HAVE ASKED THE
EMBASSY NOT TO BE VISIBLY INVOLVED, SINCE THERE IS A
FEAR THAT THE U.S. PERSPECTIVE - AND EXPERTISE - WILL
BE PERCEIVED AS BEING BIASED. PLEASE SEE PARA 9. FOR
POST REQUEST FOR GUIDANCE ON OUTREACH ISSUES.

------------
THE PLAYERS
------------

2. (SBU) THE DOMESTIC STAKEHOLDERS IN THIS PROCESS CAN
BE PUT INTO THREE BROAD GROUPS; THE ANTI-GMO COALITION,
LED BY THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (CPA), THE
TURKISH FOOD MANUFACTURERS PLATFORM, AND THE GOT. A
COMMON PERCEPTION AMONGST ALL PARTIES IS THAT THERE IS
`RISK' ASSOCIATED WITH GMOS, DESPITE THE OVERWHELMING
LACK OF EVIDENCE TO THAT EFFECT.

3. (SBU) THE CPA HAS LAUNCHED AN AGGRESSIVE ANTI-GMO
CAMPAIGN IN THE PRESS, WHICH CONSISTS OF INFLAMMATORY
ACCUSATIONS AND FALSE STATEMENTS, INTENDED TO SCARE
CONSUMERS AND ENLARGE THEIR BASE. GMO FOODS ARE
DESCRIBED AS HARMFUL SUBSTANCES THAT WILL POISON
CONSUMERS, OR AT A MINIMUM, GIVE THEM CANCER. TURKISH
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL PROCESSING COMPANIES HAVE BEEN
SLOW TO REACT TO THESE CLAIMS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF
POTENTIALLY RESTRICTIVE LEGISLATION. RECENTLY,
HOWEVER, THEY FORMED THE TURKISH FOOD MANUFACTURERS
PLATFORM TO PROVIDE A FORUM TO DISCUSS THIS ISSUE WITH
GOT REGULATORS. THIS PLATFORM WILL IDEALLY PUT
GOVERNMENT AND AFFECTED INDUSTRY MEMBERS TOGETHER. AS
IT MATURES, THIS ASSOCIATION WILL ALSO NEED TO ASSERT
ITS VOICE IN THE TURKISH PRESS TO COUNTER NEGATIVE AND
FALSE INFORMATION RELATED TO BIOTECHNOLOGY. THE TURKISH
FOOD MANUFACTURERS PLATFORM IS ORGANIZING A SEMINAR IN
EARLY DECEMBER THAT WILL FEATURE KEY EUROPEAN SPEAKERS
IN AN ATTEMPT TO INFUSE SOME `SCIENTIFIC' AND
`OBJECTIVE' PERSPECTIVES INTO THE DEBATE.

4. (SBU) THE GOT AND ITS BUREAUCRATS ARE PUT IN A VERY
DIFFICULT POSITION BY ACTIONS OF THE CPA. GOT
BUREAUCRATS ARE ALREADY SUBJECT TO A HIGH DEGREE OF
PERSONAL LIABILITY ON THE JOB, AND MOST ARE UNWILLING
TO TAKE A PROGRESSIVE STANCE ON ANY ISSUE. IN PUBLIC,
GOT OFFICIALS APPEAR UNBIASED, HOWEVER, KEY OFFICIALS
WHO ARE AGAINST THE TECHNOLOGY WITHIN THE MINISTRY OF
AGRICULTUE ARE CURRENTLY GUIDING POLICY. FURTHER, THE
LACK OF INFORMATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS ISSUE IN
THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT IS QUITE STARTLING. ONE
ACADEMIC WHO IS SERVING ON THE LAW'S DEVELOPMENT AND
REVIEW COMMITTEE CONFUSED BIOTECHNOLOGY WITH BIOLOGICAL
WEAPONS AND WANTED TO IMPOSE A DEATH SENTENCE ON THE
ILLEGAL USE OF GMOS. NOTE: ACCORDING TO A
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE TURKISH SEED ASSOCIATION, THE
ACADEMIC WAS BASING HIS POSITION ON A LAW FROM
TAJIKISTAN. END NOTE. DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE EU
RECENTLY SIGNALED ITS INTENTION TO BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS
WITH TURKEY FOR ITS MEMBERSHIP IN THE EUROPEAN UNION,
MOST TURKISH AGRICULTURE OFFICIALS BELIEVE THAT THE EU
BANS ALL PRODUCTION AND IMPORTS OF GMO PRODUCTS.

---------------
THE LEGISLATION
---------------

5. (SBU) WHILE MOST AGREE THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR
TURKEY TO DEVELOP LAWS TO REGULATE THE USE AND
PRODUCTION OF BIOTECH PRODUCTS, ALL AGREE THAT THE
CURRENT DRAFT LAW MISSES THE TARGET. IF THE LAW WERE
PASSED TODAY AS WRITTEN, THERE WOULD BE A DE FACTO BAN
ON ALL AGRICULTURE PRODUCTS DEVELOPED THROUGH
BIOTECHNOLOGY. TO BE CERTAIN, FEW EXPORTERS WOULD RISK
SHIPPING TO THIS MARKET. THE UNITED STATES EXPORTS
APPROXIMATELY $600 MILLION IN CORN, SOYBEANS PRODUCTS
AND COTTON TO TURKEY ANNUALLY. THE LAW DOES ALLOW FOR
IMPORTS BASED ON `PERMISSION' ASSUMING A NUMBER OF
CONDITIONS ARE MET. RISK ASSESSMENTS CAN BE ORDERED,
AND THE COST OF TESTING SHOULD BE BORN BY THE COMPANY.
ALSO OF NOTE, SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS CAN BE GROUNDS
FOR REFUSAL. QUOTE: SOCIO-ECONOMIC EVALUATIONS ARE
CARRIED OUT FOR EACH APPLICATION. THE OUTCOME OF A
CERTAIN APPLICATION DOES NOT SET PRECEDENCE FOR ANOTHER
ONE. END QUOTE. NOTE. THESE ARE SINGLE SHIPMENT
IMPORT APPLICATIONS - NOT PRODUCT APPLICATIONS.
MOREOVER, THE LAW CONTAINS A CIVIL AND PENAL
RESPONSIBILITY SECTION WHICH STATES THAT THERE IS
"UNCONDITIONAL LIABILITY" FOR THE IMPORTER AND PRODUCER
SHOULD ANY HARM APPEAR - TO CONSUMERS OR THE
ENVIRONMENT - WITHIN 30 YEARS.

-------------------------
THE CURRENT MARKET IMPACT
-------------------------

6. (SBU) ALTHOUGH THERE ARE CURRENTLY NO RESTRICTIONS
ON THE IMPORT OR USE OF BIO-ENGINEERED PRODUCTS, SOME
COMPANIES ARE REQUESTING NON-GMO INGREDIENTS. COKE AND
PEPSI REQUIRE ALL CORN-SWEETENERS FOR PRODUCTION OF
SOFT DRINKS TO COME FROM NON-GMO CORN. LOCAL TURKISH
AGRICULTURE INDUSTRIES AND ASSOCIATIONS ARE RELUCTANT
TO SPEAK OUT DIRECTLY IN FAVOR OF BIOTECH PRODUCTS FOR
FEAR OF NEGATIVE REACTION. RECENTLY, A TURKISH POULTRY
COMPANY WHOSE STOCKS ARE TRADED IN THE TURKISH STOCK
MARKET WAS FORCED TO DEFEND THE SAFETY OF ITS PRODUCTS
- DIRECTLY TO THE STOCK EXCHANGE - BECAUSE THEY USE
BIOTECH CORN AND SOY IN THEIR FEED. FOOD AND
AGRICULTURAL COMPANIES ARE FEARFUL OF BEING ASSOCIATED
WITH THE ISSUE, AND LACK A COMMON VOICE TO DISPEL FALSE
AND MISLEADING INFORMATION IN THE PRESS.

7. (SBU) ALTHOUGH CURRENTLY THERE IS A BAN ON GROWING
GMO PRODUCTS HERE IN TURKEY, SOURCES INDICATE THAT
ABOUT 2000 HECTARES OF GMO COTTON IS BEING GROWN IN THE
SOUTHERN PART OF THE COUNTRY. THE CPA ALSO ANNOUNCED
IN A RECENT SEMINAR THAT IT HAS TESTED LOCALLY PRODUCED
TOMATOES AND POTATOES AND DISCOVERED GMO CONTENT.

--------------------------
THE NEED FOR MORE OUTREACH
--------------------------

8. (SBU) THE NEXT SIX MONTHS ARE EXPECTED TO DEFINE
THE PLAYING FIELD FOR AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN
TURKEY. ONE THING IS CERTAIN - THE INDUSTRY AND
GOVERNMENT ARE BOTH UNINFORMED AND UNSURE HOW TO MANAGE
AN ISSUE THAT CONTINUES TO BE SUBJECT TO MISINFORMATION
IN THE PRESS. THE CPA AND THEIR ANTI-GMO CAMPAIGN ARE
CURRENTLY WINNING THE BATTLE FOR CONSUMERS.

9. (SBU) PER REFTEL, GOING BACK SEVERAL YEARS,
FAS/ANKARA HAS ARRANGED SEVERAL SEMINARS ON
BIOTECHNOLOGY AS WELL AS SEVERAL TRIPS TO THE UNITED
STATES UNDER THE COCHRAN FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM TO
INTRODUCE REGULATORS TO U.S. REGULATORY AGENCIES AND
RESEARCH FACILITIES WORKING ON THIS ISSUE. IN
ADDITION, EMBASSY HAS SENT SEVERAL TURKISH OFFICIALS ON
ITS INTERNATIONAL VISITOR PROGRAM. U.S GRAINS COUNCIL
ALSO INCLUDES TURKISH PARTICIPANTS IN ITS DOMESTIC
PROGRAMS. IN EACH CASE, PARTICIPANTS HAVE RETURNED TO
TURKEY OVERWHELMINGLY IN SUPPORT OF THE CONTINUED USE
OF AGRICULTURE BIOTECHNOLOGY. THEY HAVE ALSO STRONGLY
ADVOCATED THE CONTINUATION AND EXPANSION OF SUCH
EXCHANGE PROGRAMS. HOWEVER, ONE TURKISH OFFICIAL
INDICATED THAT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS HAD BEEN TOLD NOT
TO SPEAK OUT PUBLICLY IN FAVOR OF GMOS. FOR THIS
REASON, THERE IS A NEED TO EXPAND THE RANGE OF
PARTICIPANTS IN THESE PROGRAMS TO UNIVERSITIES,
JOURNALISTS, FOOD AND FEED ASSOCIATIONS, AND FARMERS.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE TURKISH FOOD MANUFACTURERS PLATFORM
HAS EXPRESSED INTEREST IN SENDING A GROUP OF
JOURNALISTS TO THE UNITED STATES TO ENLARGE THEIR
EXPOSURE TO THIS ISSUE. POST REQUESTS CONTINUED
SUPPORT FOR COCHRAN AND IV EXCHANGE PROGRAMS, AS WELL
AS OTHER PROGRAMS TO INCREASE EXPOSURE OF THESE ISSUES
TO A BROADER AUDIENCE. POST ALSO REQUESTS U.S. AND EU
SPEAKER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SEMINARS THAT ARE ORGANIZED
IN TURKEY.

EDELMAN

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