Mar 24, 2012
This is one of the proofs of how women can create differences and sustain that too! A GROOTS film that looks at the lives of women from three different countries, (Honduras, Turkey and India) who have emerged as problem solver rather than victims. Some of the footage was gathered by community members themselves.
Sep 12, 2011
"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you; Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating others could destroy overnight; Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten; Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give your best anyway. You see, in the final analysis, It is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway."
Aug 11, 2011
Jun 14, 2011
Some truths about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and a modest profile of anti-GMO organizations in Turkey.
I thought I’d never end writing this article about GMOs !.. Since a lot of changes happening around them in Turkey nowadays. But no, it’s done…
In Turkey especially for the last 5-10 years we see a raise in the number of shopping malls (!) as well as a raise in people becoming conscious about organic and natural food, cosmetics and cleaning products. There is also an accredited ecological farmers market setting up one day each week in Istanbul for 3 years by the pioneering of Buğday (Wheat) Association for Supporting Ecological Living. After the 3rd anniversary of the market being celebrated this fall, some bad news came along…GMOs were occupying already the agricultural agenda of Turkey but they are on the Turkish media’s agenda too, at last !..
The reason for this is that a new regulation regarding the import, processing, export, control and inspection of genetically modified organisms and their products for food and animal feeds prepared by the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs went into effect on 26 October 2009 in the official gazette but waits to be approved by the Turkish Assembly. As for today, it gets the necessary reactions especially from agricultural organizations and consumer associations. From 1998 (after Turkey has adopted a liberal economy approach at every level!) till today, genetically modified soybean and corn have been entering illegaly Turkey anyway and we were using their derivatives in various forms from biscuits to cacao powder.
GMOs are at the center of criticism due to ecological and economical reasons and their effects on human health. The term GMO has entered our lives in Turkey nearly a decade ago and is becoming more and more of a controversial issue since it affects everyone in the society from farmers to consumers. I remember picking up a brochure of “No to GMOs Platform” at Buğday’s place years ago for the first time. At that time not many knew about it and when I used to talk to friends, it was as though I was taken as paranoic!
Let’s give a quick definition of GMOs: GM plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, canola have foreign genes forced into their DNA and the inserted genes come from bacteria and viruses that have never been in the human food supply. It is a living organism having a new genetic material combination which is created by using modern biotechnology. But the biodiversity in nature may be destroyed if it’s planted in a natural habitat or it can cause deviation in the ecosystem. And there is not enough researches made in this area or not enough time has passed for them being tested and monitored the damages. They are mostly in ready-made products such as biscuits, chocolate, etc (in 800 or more products in Turkey) and are found in oil, flour, starch, glycose syrup, saccarose, fructose.
At a time where FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) declared that the world doesn’t need food with GMOs why some people or governments insist on them? It is known that it is not possible to produce second generation from these seeds which means that one will be dependant on buying them every year from the biotechnology firms. Together with seeds it will be inevitable to buy certain chemicals, thus for the farmers who own little lands it will be a burden on the costs.
Effects of GMOs on health and society
From health perspective, an important and independent study is one that was undertaken by the Austrian government, for which the report came out in November 2008; this was a 20-month-long, multi-generational study conducted by the health department of the government of Austria. Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, summarized the findings as: “Mice fed with GE maize had less offspring in the third and fourth generations and these differences were statistically significant. Mice fed with non-GE maize reproduced more efficiently. This effect could be attributed to the difference in the food source”.
Soya production with GMOs has increased from 8.3 million hectar to 16 million hectar between 2000 and 2007. But the number of farmers has decreased 30% because planting soya beans with GMOs needed less work power, thus unemployment appeared. It is said by the scientists that a monopolized agriculture and nutrition will lead to resistance against antibiotics and deficiency in human health. Cancer, tyroid, disorders in skin and in the respiratory system will be seen more. It is certified that in the Mediterranean area, people who consume corn oil the most are Turks and Israelis and the cancer cases in the same area are seen the most again in Israel and Turkey! The exemple of Argentina (the rise of unemployment and external debt) plays an important role on examining the possible damages of GMOs. We see the similar poverty in India and Brazil. Turkish Farmers Association says that, although it was not legal, GMOs were already been imported from 1998 onwards in Turkey and without any control. Only in 2003 1.8 million tons of corn were imported, 81 % of corn and corn derivatives and 88% of soy were imported from US and Argentina into Turkey. We can say that the biotechnology corporates want to use Turkey as a consumer country whereas in Argentina exemple it is the production that counts.
In Turkey from 2001 onwards, with the coming along of the sugar law, sugar factories are closing one by one and The Turkish High Board of Privatization will end the sale of all factories by the end of 2010. Since that time the government imposed a quota on planting sugar beet. Instead of sugar beet, sugar produced from corn with GMOs is being used and is imported because it’s cheaper. It is predicted that more than four thousand five hundered families will be affected from this, including seasonal agricultural workers (one thousand) and workers at the sugar factories.
GM seeds are developed, get patended and marketed by giant global seed corporations. While European countries are cautious about GMOs, in China and in some Latin American countries a rise in their planting has been seen obvious. The sensibility of Europeans on food safety plays a role in this approach. Luxembourg, Greece, France, Hungary and Germany have all declared that they don’t accept to plant the corn seed with GMOs. Besides European Union has taken the prohibition decision to reduce the plantation of GMOs from 165 thousand hectares to 105 thousand and what’s more 80% of this production is made only in Spain. Many regions in Italy and Germany are already declaring themselves GM-free. Only last week in Ireland, it is said that they would ban all GM crop cultivation and the Welsh Assembly too has had a long-standing policy against GM. EU member states can already block GM by invoking a so-called ‘safeguard clause’. Under this rule they can ban the use and sale of a GMO if they have justifiable reasons to consider that it poses a risk to human health or the environment. Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Luxembourg have all used the clause in recent years.
When Soviet Union has fallen, there were no seeds coming to Cuba and an economic crisis began in 1991 in the country. There were severe shortages of oil derivatives and imports, leading to widespread famine. This desperate need for food caused change to an establishment of small organic farms called (“organoponico”) by making use of any available space, from disused car parks to road-sides. The result was productive and it was an exemple of an attractive urban environment in Havana: splashes of lush green space and flourishing gardens. Now Cuba has 7000 organoponicos and they supply 90 % of the country's fruit and vegetables.
The new Japanese government's position also is becoming strict on labelling genetically modified food, as we know Japan is perhaps one of the countries in the world with the strongest consumer opposition to unnatural GM foods. This will surely influence Australia since Japan is a its major export market for canola.
“Where” is Turkey ?
Turkey is a rich country regarding biological diversity. Two thousand out of eleven thousand vegetal species exist only in here. Since Turkey has signed the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol in 2004 it became mandatory for the government to prepare a National Biosafety Draft Law. So while non-profit organizations and other groups were expecting a legal adjustment for years, all of a sudden on 26 October 2009 a regulation was promulgated in the official gazette.
In the web site of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs the new regulation is not explained clearly and one thinks that the Ministry is trying to protect the endemic life! Thus there seems a misinformation going on at governmental level. On the other hand, few months ago on televisions, we heard the government spokesman saying that not only the import but even the sowing of GM seeds will be legal in Turkey... With this regulation the importation of food and feed with GMOs will become legalized but the government first denied it and they didn’t give clear answers and still at their web site it says that the import of GM food will be banned! I don’t know what to say but they must have forgotten something!.. Anyway, later the Minister changed his words to “with the adoption of the regulation, the trade of GMOs will be supervised”, then we followed that the ministry started to send 27 variety of food waiting at the customs, for the analysis to the laboratories, which in 13 of them was found high levels of GM and their entry weren’t allowed. But the funny thing is that we can never know which fruit or vegetables are these bacause it is prohibited to make them public. The same minister said, regarding the banning of “GMO free” labelling on products, that it isn’t “written everything that a product doesn’t contain anyway!!! Well… He thinks these debates are done to create “information pollution” to misinform public! Also in a TV program, he announced he can’t say these food are insecure but he wouldn’t eat them for there is some interference to nature and wouldn’t suggest anyone to eat! Uff, getting tired to follow now?
One can’t stop herself to ask the question if some wants to mislead the public on purpose! It’s one of the many concerns that there will be lobbies in advocating the plantation of GM seeds in Turkey legally, and some already started to speak up as why should be dependent on buying imported vegetables instead of sowing them.
On top of it, those who support GMOs accuse the opposite side by being “resistant to the novelties” and blame them by being “science-enemy” or “innovation-enemy”! This issue is turning to tragicomical if you ask me!
Trade bodies and consumer and ecological organizations though thinks that this regulation will give way to food with GMOs. On the other side Turkish Health Care Workers’ Union filed an annulment suit to the state council against the regulation. They claim, like many other ecological organizations that this regulation protects GM producers.
Picture: Members of the Consumer Rights Association protest genetically modified organisms during a Nov. 8 demonstration. AA photo
The social democrat opposition party (CHP) at the parliament is also against the import or plantation of GM seeds. I hope they don’t oppose for the sake of opposing and will go all lenghts!
No to GMOs Platform and scientists are concerned as how the government will be able to analyze all food coming to Turkey only with three labs at different cities (by the way they will increase to five) : Ankara, Bursa and Adana. And experts- biology professors/ agricultural engineers- say that for all the food entering from Turkish customs there is no way these labs can be adequate to inspect. And even today, there are no control laboratories in Turkish customs for routine researches. At this point, it is important to mention that in October 2009, Germany turned back the pears from German customs which went from Turkey, proving that some illegal insecticide (amitras) has been used in great amounts. So one can ask how the control of food with GMOs will be made even a standart control mechanism doesn’t exist at Turkish customs.
The new Turkish regulation and its shortcomings
One of this new -mentioned above- regulation article forbids GM free companies to write statements like “GMO free” on the label of a product. This creates a disturbance on many people’s minds and it proves that the firms are not confident of themselves nor of their products. We see this note on some soy products in Turkey as well as notes like “without trans oils” or “without preservatives” or “doesn’t contain gluten”, “doesn’t contain porc fat”. If all these labels are allowed why the GM free should be forbidden? This is unacceptable! So many anti-GMO groups ask if it is a danger for the baby, the mother should be protected too since the baby will be fed from his/her mother milk or even before that from the mother’s navel cord during pregnancy. It is also awkward that we find the same statement in the US legislation about GM labelling. This decision was taken there after a GM corporation won the case against an organic milk company, they said that this created “unfair competition”.
Another gap in the regulation is that it doesn’t mention at all the animals’ feed which contain most likely GMOs and what will be the situation of the animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy.
No to GMOs Platform considers the arrangement of the marketing of GMOs by a regulation without having a national biosafety law as a legal and public scandal, because first this should have been argued in the Parliament and second enacted as a law not a regulation. Thus the government expected this issue to be escaped from people’s and the parliament’s notice. The lawyers supporting the platfom filed an annulment action against the regulation and it seems more will be filed!
Another gap in this regulation is that scientists who are going to control the imported products (the science committee) will be appointed by the ministry of agriculture which doesn’t seem very objective in this issue. That means instead of an independent scientists group who could endure possible constraints of politicians or companies, there will be “controlled” scientists or organizations. Beyond that, shouldn’t even an independent committee be supervised by other scientists?
The risk assessment of these products will be in the control of companies. It is awkward that the farmers or consumers who get harmed from the products with GMOs will be obliged to prove their damages! The burden of proving won’t be on companies. Any information about these products subject to risk assessment won’t the declared publicly, it will be kept as a secret.
Regarding supervising these products no discretion power (or right to speak) will be given to farmers, consumers, ecological organization, independent scientific institution or trade associatons.
Question arises in people’s minds as why does the government bring forward the GM products’ importation since there isn’t any request from the public or the farmers’ side for such seeds. All the environmental and consumers groups ask for the draw back of this regulation and an immediate constitution of a biosafety law. They want also an open sharing of information process to be started by the government which will embrace consumer and ecological organizations.
No to GMOs platform and its components
I would like you to give a brief profile about Turkish anti-GMO organizations and how the issue is being handled in Turkey especially after the regulation appeared in our lives.
No to GMOs Platform is a combination of democratical mass organizations, trade bodies, consumer and ecological foundations and scientists. It is established in 2004 in Istanbul with a declaration named “Life can not be patented” and the same year they gave a parliamentary question to the Turkish Parliament on GMOs. The platform consist of 40 non-profit organizations, local initiatives, trade bodies, and started a signature campaign called “No to GMO” and became a pressure group on institutions and individuals.
The members of the platform don’t want any food or feed with GMOs to enter the country. It is said that cereals which were the most important product of Turkey now are being bought from different countries. The foremost followers of No to GMOs Platform, members of Agriculture Engineers Chamber, Farmers’s Union and Turkish Medical Association appeared on TVs and radios and long discussions were made, although the Minister of Agriculture himself didn’t confront the opposing views, his undersecretaries didn’t seem very competent in the issue either. Especially Agriculture Engineers Chamber’s members relate the subject understandably to the public. Many well knowm columnists has taken up the subject in hand for the first time. We can say that through media the public became acquainted with this three letters word! The platform continues its mission to inform and illuminate the public about the new situation. They holded a press conference on 1 November 2009 themed as “Our biosafety is in danger”. The platform says that Turkey which is rich in biological diversity and which has got an agricultural potential doesn’t need any GMOs product. They are decisive in continuing on their struggle of informing public.
The web site called Karasaban (Primitive plough) is perhaps one of the sites that has given a lot of importance to this issue since they are formed by a group of independent farmers. Their motto is quite impressive: “Land, Dignity, Life”. They say their mission is to be a voice of small farmers and their independent unions. They don’t want the agriculture in Turkey and Turkish farmers’ future be let down. They want the import of this type of food should be forbidden completely. They say that they hear many merging cases between GMO seed companies with the ones who produce chemicals for plants. They are quite aware that farmers will be dependent on big corporations.
The Association of Protecting the Environment and Consumer Rights (ÇETKODER) also said that they will file an annulment suit against the regulation. Their general president, in his written statement said that the majority of the public doesn’t even understand what is the regulation is about or what is comprised of and people will continue to live without knowing what will happen to them, their health will be disregarded.
Another important foundation of Turkey (TEMA) who continues to raise awareness on many ecological matters especially on erosion and reforestation wrote at their web site that they too will file an annulment suit against the regulation and that they are in the preparation of arranging a science board who will discuss the issue and share the opinions and solution suggestions with the public in December 2009.
It is also significant that Turkish Green Party’s agricultural working group took up the issue saying that the evoluted plants for thousands of years won’t be the same any more, because it will be given a bacteria, it will change and will become another species that can’t be identified. They ask if it isn’t an interference to the nature’s evolution process. They also affirm that farmers who make organic farming should be encouraged.
I should also mention the role of an independent radio station named Açık Radyo (Open radio) who functions as a non-profit organization in Turkey since 1994. As an "information center" for non-profit organizations, Açık Radyo’s democratic structure allow many programs to be made on environmental issues especially on climate change. They also made interviews concerning the new regulation of GMOs for the last two weeks and have a file in their web site that contains various readings on the subject.
A local group (convivium) of Slow Food movement in Turkey, “Fikir Sahibi Damaklar”, FSD (Palates who have opinions) want their voices to be heard on this issue by writing a bulletin on GMOs stating to be careful about the ready-made products’ ingredients we buy and to send it to as many people as we can by mail or by fax, including mayor, city’s directorate of agriculture, the congressmen and the children’s school principal. Their leader is an active woman who makes us aware and vigilant of the consumer’s rights. The women who are the key actors in this group emphasize especially being a mother and consumer, and want to fight for their rights as they pay the taxes and vote. They also started a GMO fast (fast that avoids any products contaning GMOs) and they say this is a campaign of realization. They are quite good in quickly organizing themselves and forming groups in twitter and facebook. In 2 weeks time approximately, 15000 people shared their opinion in these virtual environments. By being a member of FSD e-mail group, I must say that the founder and few others dedicate a lot of their time to their cause and play a crucial role in warning and informing people. They make people think on people’s food habits and ask anyone to reassess their consumer habits.
One of the main points defended by those who support the use of GM seeds is that, GMOs are necessary to meet the ever-increasing food demand of the world and to find a solution for the hunger problem. However the experts believe that the existing agricultural capacity is enough to meet the needs of the world population. Most of the ecologists and some sociologists and policy makers think that the hunger problem of the third world countries is not a result of lack of production potential but of an unplanned use and unbalanced distribution of the production capacity. This doesn’t mean that there is no hunger problem in the world. The problem is not because of production but of an uneven distribution. We know that the use of power between developed countries and undeveloped ones are overly unbalanced, thus the aim of the applications of genetic engineering that seem to create a solution for hunger in the world are a mere fallacy. The reason so much insistance is given to GMOs is that it is a big market for corporations and this technology brings a lot of profit.
Turkey’s bio-richness will disappear if the regulation is approved at the Parliament too and eventually Turkey’s dependency will escalate. Cultivating or importing, it doesn’t matter, GM crops lead to GM pollution and once this pollution begins it may cause irreversible damages. After all, without knowing the long-term consequences of GMOs on potential human health risks, or rather without enough time passing in terms of researches the contraversy over them can’t be solved.
What can be done : If the consumer boycotts the products with GMOs, they may be banned, also we should inform the ones we contact about GM food. The more informed people are the less they will prefer these food. In the US, in a pole done by Washington Post 53 % of people said they wouldn’t buy products with GMOs if they knew their food contained them.
The relation with food of Turkish people isn’t similar to a European country citizen. I remember my friends who came to Istanbul were astonished to the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets. And we know that even in big cities like Istanbul, there are open markets being set every week at different districts and elderly or young go there with no exception. So I believe that Turkish people will appropriate more this matter.
Furthermore, the basic question is not only health or environment, but beyond that it’s a question of democracy and human rights (and this needs to be discussed in another article!) we aren’t asked what to take into our bodies, we aren’t allowed to designate our own destiny. I’m sure everyone would agree with me that we need better diets and correct agricultural policies instead of dominating the nature’s “internal” functioning.
 Buğday Assoc., although is established in 2002 is a leading movement from 1990 onwards working to create an awareness of ecological living and the “circulation of this kind of information” in Turkey. It’s a member of IFOAM (International Foundation for Organic Agriculture) and EVU (European Vegetarian Union).
 The Protocol on Biosafety is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another. It was adopted on 29 January 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on 11 September 2003.
 Slow Food movement is a non-profit organization, funded in 1989, who believe in “good, clean and fair food” that counteracts fast-food and fast life. It has over 100,000 members in 132 countries.
 Raj Patel, activist /academic , is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Centre for African Studies and a fellow at The Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First.
Jun 10, 2011
Their story is really amazing. At the beginning of the book, Boutenko explains in details why we need to have greens everyday and in a smoothie form. It was interesting to read that greens matches all nutritional human needs. They are rich in almost all essential minerals and vitamins including protein. But Boutenka finds out from her individual researches that eating greens without masticating them thoroughly would not satisfy our nutritional needs. It means, we need to chew them as such until it comes to a creamy consistency! In addition to that, to be able to digest these minerals and vitamins, the hydrochloric acid in the stomach must be very strong. If we don't chew them properly it forms indigestion in our bodies.
So, here is the great solution that Boutenko found: To blend the greens with bananas in a blender (especially a high-speed one called 'Vita-Mix'). For example, kale with banana is magical! In this way you consume lots of greens in one day and without any salt or oil and the most important one your stomach feels fine:)
Apr 28, 2011
The first thing, I'd like to tell about is to get involved! Invest time in a creative activity or a sport or enroll to a course. For instance this can be the Italian language course you always wanted to attend!... Do not be desperate saying, "what will I gain through this course after this age?". Believe in yourself and do something. Only by being happy you can add a new dimension to your life, because you will be introducing a new element to it. And most important, visualise your future as a time full of happiness and opportunities and possibilities.
Jun 24, 2010
Inter multa magnifica Demetri nostri et haec vox est, a qua recens sum; sonat adhuc et vibrat in auribus meis: "Nihil", inquit, "mihi videtur infelicius eo, cui nihil umquam evenit adversi". Non licuit enim illi se experiri.