General situation of GM crops in Turkey
Pilot survey conducted by Professor Selim Çetiner, Sabancı University, Istanbul, Turkey
Turkey with 21.3 million ha of arable land and different agro-ecological conditions is the 7th largest agricultural producer in the world. Although the share of agricultural production in GDP has shown a steady decline since 1950s, it still represents 8.4 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2010. About 25 % of the active population is employed in the agricultural sector where average size of the family farms is 0.6 ha.
Wheat (8 096 000 ha), barley (2 868 000 ha), sunflower (655 000 ha), maize (589 000 ha) and grapevine (473 000 ha). Due to diversity of agro-ecological conditions and high number of cultivated crops, there are many biotic and abiotic stress conditions that are causing problems in agricultural production and decreasing yield and quality. Among these drought is the most important limiting factor for wheat and barley production, while pests (Hessian fly, Sunn pest) and diseases (different types of rust and mildew) are also diverse. For sunflower, downy mildew and sunflower broomrape are important problems. For maize, European corn borer, corn root worm and stem borer are the major pests.
At the R&D level, genetic modification is used for basic research only in a few university laboratories. Since the cultivation of GM plants is explicitly banned by the Biosafety Law, there is no sense of allocating resources to more applied GM research. Current plant breeding programs focus on classical breeding with some using marker assisted selection (MAS) techniques.
The cultivation of GM crops is explicitly banned by the Biosafety Law in Turkey. However, 2.2 million metric tons of GM soybeans are imported annually to be used in animal feed only. So far, food use of GM commodities is not allowed in Turkey.
Experiences of farmers
There is no commercial cultivation of GM crops by farmers in Turkey. However, early field trials run between 1993 and 2003 have demonstrated clear potential benefits in terms of yield increases (about 35 %) and reduced fumonisin levels (about 16 times less) in second crop maize in southern Turkey.