Capacity building in agricultural biotechnology in Turkey

Dobos E., Karaali A.

FOOD REVIEWS INTERNATIONAL, vol.19, no.4, pp.437-445, 2003 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 19 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Doi Number: 10.1081/fri-120025484
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.437-445
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: No


Turkey, situated at the junction of two continents, benefits both from its rich Asian legacy and its proximity to neighboring European countries. Although the level of socioeconomic development places the country clearly in the group of developing countries, Turkey has been a candidate country for admission to the European Union (EU) since 1999. As a result, the conditions for capacity building in agricultural biotechnology include elements from both the industrialized and developing countries. Because of its favorable climate and time-tested fanning traditions dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, the country possesses one of the richest floras in the world. This review attempts to illuminate the role and importance of local actors in introducing modem biotechnology to the Turkish agricultural system. Agricultural biotechnology, specifically plant biotechnology, has a high priority in the Turkish government's program. Public-funded research and education in this field is given due priority, but research by the private sector is relatively poorly funded. The ongoing field trials with genetically modified seeds are conducted mostly by multinational companies whose aim it is to commercialize the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as soon as legislation concerning biotechnology is implemented. The attitude of the big farm owners to genetically modified crops is positive because they expect economic advantages from these crops. On the other hand, public awareness about genetically modified food is quite low, and neither the consumer organizations nor the media represent a particular power in this area. Thus, the power centers in agricultural biotechnology are the government and the multinational biotech companies. The local industry, the consumers, and the media have relatively less input. Moreover, communication between groups is fairly poor, and this contributes to a growing gap between the strong and the weak actors. Turkey has already decided to implement the EU regulation in contained use and the deliberate release of GMOs, which has been shaped in the European sociopolitical environment where the consumers and their organizations represent a powerful force, and where the power constellation between the actors is quite different. Nevertheless, it can be argued, that this route might still be the right choice for Turkey during the phase of introducing this high-tech method of production to its agriculture.