Turkey challenged by hormone-treated foods


Source of Article:  http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=150439&bolum=105



Consumers are increasingly becoming wary of foods tainted with chemicals and fertilizers and express grave concerns over hormonal nutrition and genetically modified foods. They do not want their children exposed to these risky foods in their diets.



According to the industry definition, any of the various hormones produced by plants that control or regulate germination, growth, metabolism or other physiological activities are called plant hormones. These hormones can be organic as well as synthetic.

As hormones and chemical booster medicines are interruptions of natural processes, it is possible to get more, better-looking yet insipid products. However, producers are putting the agriculture industry in jeopardy and at risk, damaging the reputation of and trust in their produce in the long run. Land burdened by overuse of chemicals and hormones is rendered useless after long usage and abuse.

What is more, widespread media coverage over "hormonal disputes" increases consumer awareness and provides negative publicity for the industry. This, in turn, decreases the consumption of hormonized food products. Developed countries, the US in particular, are already in the midst of a movement to transform agriculture into a more environmentally friendly and ecologically balanced business. Unfortunately, the awareness is not that high in developing countries such as Turkey, and hormone and chemical additive manufacturers are also expanding their operations.

Farmers use artificial hormones mostly in tomatoes and eggplants due to difficulties in fertilization in cold weather.

In an interview with Today's Business, Fuat Engin, the general director of the Association for Promoting Consumer Awareness (TÜBİDER), said there was increasing public concern over chemically fertilized food products. "Not only do consumers feel anxiety and fear about hormones, but also about those foods that include pesticides (hormone and chemical additive residue) and genetically modified foods." Engin also expressed concern over the lack of control and regulation in the field. "It is up to government officials and regulators to increase awareness among consumers and to promote universal principles such as protecting health and the security of consumers. Those foods that contain pesticides and hormones are becoming the preferred foods of millions of poor people due to their low price. It should be an obligation on the part of government officials who have been entrusted with the health and safety of consumers."


The Turkish food and produce sector needs to comply with stringent food codes, as the majority of food exports head to European Union countries, which set very high standards. European consumers are sensitive to genetically modified and chemically grown food products. Turkey's tomatoes exports to Russia were halted temporarily this year over allegations of chemical residue. As a result of the apprehension of consumers, farmers use various ways to decrease hormones level and use organic chemicals when possible.


In agriculture, wildering, weed and plant illnesses cause a 65 percent loss in production. According to statistics, this kind of loss equates to approximately 23 million tons and could feed 150 million people a year. To cope with these challenges, farmers rely on chemicals that provide resistance to disease.

Turkish producers argue that the quality of agricultural chemicals is in line with the standards and criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Collaborative International Pesticides Analytical Council (CIPAC). The usage of chemical additives in Turkey is very low in comparison to EU countries. For instance, as an active substance per hectare, in France and Germany, the figure is 4.7 kilograms; Greece 6 kilograms; Italy 7.6 kilograms; Belgium 11.3 kilograms; Netherlands 17.8 kilograms; and in Turkey only 600 grams.

The problem in Turkey is not confined to incorrect chemicals or the dosage of hormones and chemical additives used in food products and fruits. The problem is also the incorrect usage of hormones in terms of application and timing. For example Sweden rejected Turkish exported eggplant due to residue from the additive Neoron. This additive is not illegal, but it needs to be utilized per the manufacturer's instructions. The traces of the additive take time to disappear, so that it requires a long time to dissipate. Application from 14 days prior to harvest is prohibited; otherwise, some traces may remain in fruits and vegetables. The reason the exported eggplant is rejected was either a higher dosage used than needed or late application of the chemical and hormonal additives.

"Producers should be attentive regarding waiting time after using antibiotics in planting -- and exceeding the maximum residue limit [MRL] should be carefully controlled," Irfan Erol, a professor at Ankara University's veterinary faculty, told Today's Business. According to Erol, it is normal in Turkey to find antibiotic and hormonal pesticides in animal foods. "It is certainly threatening people's health in the short and long runs. It is thus important to comply with regulations related to hormone usage, and the National Pesticide Control Program should be effectively implemented," Erol said.


Another threat posed by the industry is the usage of cheap and very poisonous chemicals. Poisonous chemicals are effective because they kill weeds efficiently and cost less. A cheap and poisonous chemical called Methamidophos was incorrectly used in pepper production in Turkey, resulting in problems with pepper exports to Germany. This poisonous hormone is allowed to be used only in tobacco and cotton by government regulatory agencies. However, this additive was later prohibited after farmers used it in pepper production.


Sadly, in Turkey, a loose regulatory system, lapses in quality control and the ability of producers to purchase any hormones and food chemicals and use them in any food products they want put consumer health at risk and tarnish Turkey's image. These kinds of mistakes bear the risk of placing Turkey on the "blacklist" in the food export and agricultural business.


Speaking at a conference titled "Usage of Chemical Additives and Hormone in Plant and Animal Production," Dr. Köksal Demir asserted that it was wrong to use the term "hormone" to denote the primary source of toxic residue in fruits and vegetables because farmers use chemicals in making vegetables and fruits grow faster and bigger. "I wish it were hormones," Demir said. "Reasonable amounts of hormones occur in nature and in plants, anyway, and help the development and growth of vegetables."



17 August 2008, Sunday




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