INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Ag Minister Issues Strong Anti-Biotech Statement

Published: Tue 2 Nov 2004 03:35 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
021535Z Nov 04
UNCLAS ANKARA 006208
SIPDIS
STATE FOR EB/TPP/ABT/BTT DEBORA MALAC, JACK BOBO
STATE FOR IIP/T/ES JONATHAN SHAFFER
USDA FOR FAS/OA/BIG PAUL SPENCER
USDA FOR FAS/ICD SEAN CARMEDY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EAGR KPAO TU
SUBJECT: Ag Minister Issues Strong Anti-Biotech Statement
Ref: A. Ankara 00801, B. Ankara 005980
Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. TODAY'S TURKISH DUNYA NEWSPAPER (A
BUSINESS DAILY), REPORTED THAT TURKEY'S MINISTER OF
AGRICULTURE SAMI GUCLU VISITED THE "MONSTER TOMATO
BALLOON" IN ANKARA YESTERDAY. THE GIANT TOMATO, AS
PART OF A NATION WIDE ANTI-GMO CAMPAIGN HAS BEEN
TOURING TURKEY FOR SEVERAL WEEKS NOW. THIS BALLOON WAS
ORGANIZED AND EXHIBITED BY THE `NO' FOR GMO'S PLATFORM,
WHICH WAS FORMED BY 90 NGOS. IN HIS STATEMENTS, THE
MINISTER INDICATED THAT THE GOT WILL BE INCREASING ITS
CONTROL OF GMO IMPORTS AT CUSTOMS. DESPITE THE TONE OF
THESE STATEMENTS, THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE IS MOST
LIKELY ATTEMPTING TO SEND A SIGNAL TO CONSUMERS THAT
THE GOT IS IN CONTROL OF THE SITUATION. NO IMMEDIATE
DISRUPTION IN TRADE IS ANTICIPATED, ALTHOUGH PER
REFTEL, NEW LEGISLATION THAT MAY BE APPROVED BY
PARLIAMENT IN AS LITTLE AS TWO TO THREE MONTHS HAS THE
POTENTIAL TO BE QUITE DISRUPTIVE.
2. (SBU) IN HIS REMARKS, MINISTER GUCLU UNDERLINED
THAT CURRENTLY IMPORTS OF GMO PRODUCTS, EXCEPT SEEDS,
ARE PROHIBITED. NOTE. BY SEEDS, THE MINISTER IS
LIKELY REFERRING TO GRAINS SUCH AS CORN AND SOYBEANS.
IMPORTS OF GMO PLANTING SEEDS ARE FORBIDDEN. FURTHER,
THERE ARE ACTUALLY NO CONTROLS FOR GMO CONTENT IN
PROCESSED FOODS. END NOTE. HE ALSO ADDED THAT,
CONSIDERING THE SENSITIVITY OF THE PUBLIC ON THIS
ISSUE, THE GOT IS IMPROVING ITS LABORATORY
INFRASTRUCTURE, AND WILL SEARCH FOR THESE PRODUCTS AT
CUSTOMS. THE MINISTER STATED THAT CONFIRMATION FROM
THE SUPPLIER COUNTRY FOR GMO CONTENT WILL BE REQUIRED,
AND THAT THE GOT WILL ALSO ASK IMPORTING COMPANIES TO
ANALYZE THESE PRODUCTS AT GOT LABORATORIES (AT THEIR
OWN EXPENSE) FOR GMO CONTENT.
3. (SBU) TODAY AG ATTACHE MET WITH DEPUTY
UNDERSECRETARY HASAN EKIZ TO RAISE CONCERN OVER THE
MINISTER'S STATEMENT, AND PROVIDE FURTHER INFORMATION
FROM A PREVIOUS REQUEST. NOTE. DR. EKIZ WAS AN ATTENDEE
AT THE SECRETARY'S SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SEMINAR IN
CALIFORNIA LAST YEAR. END NOTE. DR. EKIZ, WHO
INDICATED THAT HE IS IN SUPPORT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY, IS
ALSO HIGHLY KNOWLEDGEABLE ON THE TOPIC. TO A CERTAIN
EXTENT, DR. EKIZ DOWNPLAYED THE MINISTER'S STRONG
REMARKS BY INDICATING THAT THE AGRICULTURE MINISTRY WAS
OBLIGED TO CONVEY PUBLICLY TO CONSUMER GROUPS THAT THEY
WERE TAKING ACTION TO DEVELOP BIOTECHNOLOGY
REGULATIONS. DR. EKIZ INITIALLY CONFIRMED THAT THE GOT
WOULD NOT COMPLETELY BLOCK IMPORTS. SUBSEQUENT
STATEMENTS, HOWEVER, INDICATED THAT THE TOLERANCE
LEVELS ESTABLISHED BY TURKEY THROUGH THE PENDING
LEGISLATION MIGHT `TEMPORARILY' BE QUITE RESTRICTIVE.
4. (SBU) COMMENTS. WHILE IT WAS ENCOURAGING TO MEET A
GOT BUREAUCRAT WHO WAS KNOWLEDGEABLE ON THE TOPIC, THE
PERSISTENT NEGATIVE PRESS AND CAMPAIGN OF THE `NO' TO
GMO PLATFORM HAS TURNED THIS INTO A POLITICAL ISSUE,
AND NOT A SCIENTIFIC ONE. IN THE DEPUTY SECRETARY'S
OWN WORDS, THE AGRICULTURE MINISTRY IS IN A VERY
DIFFICULT SITUATION. PER REFTEL B., FUTURE LEGISLATION
IS LIKELY TO ADDRESS THE POLITICAL ELEMENT FIRST, AND
CONSIDER ECONOMIC AND SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS SECONDARY.
END COMMENTS.
5. POST WILL REPLY SEPTEL TO STATE (#228322) REQUEST
FOR PROPOSALS TO FUND SPEAKERS AND SPECIALISTS TO VISIT
TURKEY. SUCH PROGRAMS ARE NEEDED IN TURKEY, BUT NEED
TO BE COORDINATED CAREFULLY WITH THE GOT AND LOCAL FOOD
AND FEED ASSOCIATIONS.
EDELMAN
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