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Sent: 29 May 2003 16:18
To: '[email protected]'
Subject: 83: GMO legislation and centers of genetic diversity
This is from Professor Nazimi Acikgoz, Seed Technology Center in Izmir - Turkey. I am also the editor of a monthly, bilingual (Turkish and English) electronic newsletter called Agbiyotek: http://www.agbiyotek.ege.edu.tr).
It seems that we have missed the main spirit of the GMO regulation issue. Before we deal with the technical or administrative aspects of biotechnology regulation, the general application of biotechnology in developing and transition countries should be discussed. So far, crosses cannot be prevented and are not negligible in commercial transgenic plantings (proved almost for every genus including autogamous (self-fertilising) species, but some tools like genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs), seed-lethal (SL) or similar systems are not put into practice yet (see e.g. J.P. Schernthaner et al. 2003. Control of seed germination in transgenic plants based on the segregation of a two-component genetic system. PNAS, 100, 6855-6859, abstract available at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/100/11/6855?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits =10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Schernthaner&searchid=1054214870161_2150&stored_se arch=&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance ).
The "centers of genetic diversity" concept should be considered as a key point for every GMO legislation initially. Being one of genetic diversity centers of wheat, Turkey, with over 9.3 million hectares wheat acreage (Acikg÷z N. et al., Progresses in Turkish Seed Industry. In "Seed Policy and Legislation, Widening a Narrow Focus" The Haworth Press, New York 2002), might want to benefit from any transgenic wheat commercialization. Just a piece of information: wheat breeders know that there are more than 10 wheat cultivars in the world originating from Turkey. At this point, I ask myself:
1. Don't we need to protect all wild, landrace and cultivated genotypes
(existing, or which can occur without any knowledge of human being) and
present them to our future generations?
2. Assuming Turkey bans transgenic wheat cultivation, and transgenic wheat reflects a 10% benefit, will Turkey not be a loser of 1.8 million tons annually, with its 18 million tons of wheat production?
3. Who will pay the costs?
These statements reflect the fact that decisions cannot be easily made in plant biotechnology. I ask myself: "how will you explain the situation to those readers, with a background other than in life sciences". Maybe it will be logical to start in FAO's "Agricultural biotechnology: Meeting the needs of the poor?" with such fundamental issues. [This is the title of the upcoming The State of Food and Agriculture 2003, due to be published this Autumn. This annual SOFA report is one of FAO's main publications, providing an annual report on current developments affecting world agriculture...Moderator]. Preparing legislation, what kind of regulations, how strict they should be, how GMOs should be regulated etc. should be handled within local even ecological conditions. Regional cooperation and know-how exchange would bring a perfect solution to legislation. At the beginning, no one specific country can settle a perfect GMO regulation. A special experienced service provided by FAO seems to be a logical solution. Or a special training service for bureaucrats of mentioned countries might be also a start. Because "regulating for GMOs" is a job for a group of experts. Including "plant made pharmaceuticals or biopharmaceutical" issues, "regulating GMOs in any country" seems to be beyond the limits of a single country. Maybe such cases are the main reason for the existence of the United Nations and its sub-units. A similar brainstorming on "GMO and centers of genetic diversity" should be organized immadiately with FAO's initiative. For detailed resolutions, FAO should cooperate with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and similar organizations. [FAO, WHO and UNEP are all part of the United Nations system, see http://www.un.org/aboutun/chart.html ...Moderator].
Prof. Dr. Nazimi Acikgoz
E.U. Seed Technology Center
nacikgoz (at) ziraat.ege.edu.tr