European University of Lefke Agriculture and Technology Faculty Professor Kazim Abak said that the TRNC was relatively free of genetically modified food and crops but that controls and more legislation were vital for the island to remain GM-free.
He advised consumers to eat fresh, locally grown food rather than processed or imported goods such as cornflakes: “This is a small country with small-scale farming which would be easy to regulate. It would also be good for sustainable tourism.”
In 2012 the faculty won funding from Tübitak, Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council, for a two-year project to collect local vegetable varieties for a Genetic Seed Bank which hosts seed-sharing days to increase the collection.
The highest incidence of GM worldwide is in corn, soya, cotton and rapeseed, which raised concerns over animal feed. Over half the world’s soybean crop is now GM, and GM sugar beet grown in the US is imported into Europe – where corn is the only GM crop currently grown, but applications are in for potatoes modified to produce starch as a raw material and for animal feed.
A herbicide-resistant GM rice cultivar has been approved in the US but not in the EU, while another is now grown in the developing world, having been engineered to provide better nutrition.
Milk and cereal baby food imported to Turkey from Portugal in 2014 was found to contain GM products despite passing laboratory tests one year earlier. Information from the internet prompted a second testing and a court case.
The importation or cultivation of GM food and crops is forbidden by law in Turkey and the TRNC but the testing of suspected GM produce may currently only be done in Turkey. Professor Abak said TRNC state laboratories needed qualified personnel and equipment to do the job but added: “If local producers and the public get involved in projects like these, it will be a winner for business, tourism and public health and we will support them.”