Osman Çaklı / DUVAR
Legislation regarding agricultural seeds implemented within the scope of the EU harmonization package that was enacted in 2006 in Turkey has forced farmers to use certified seeds. Administrative fines have been imposed on people or organizations that grow, process, prepare for sale, distribute or sell seeds without obtaining an authorization from the relevant authorities.
As a result of the law, farmers who trade seeds can no longer profit from their business. Yet other producers and professional organizations related to the ministry beg to differ.
Though the law did not prohibit the use of ancestral seeds, it prevented their commercial sale. According to farmers, the seed law adopted in 2006 in Turkey constitutes a threat to the sovereignty of food and agricultural production.
However, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, hybrid seed production has resulted in more efficiency for the producer and more quality for the consumer. When government support was cut by a decree announced in 2018 for farmers who did not use the certified hybrid seeds produced by companies, the vast majority of farmers had to buy and use these seeds.
Producer cooperatives and agricultural engineers believe that the restriction of the use of ancestral seeds has a negative effect on the agricultural wealth and local agricultural culture that has formed over thousands of years. Agricultural engineers have criticized the law's so-called “uniformity of seed richness in Anatolia." Yet according to the ministry, 743,000 certified seeds were produced in 2013 alone.
“Hybrid seeds and GMO seed invasion poses a major threat to our biodiversity. The same law stripped the farmer's right to separate his seed from his own product and banned them from selling it under an uncertified seed label. It granted certification rights to the seed companies. In order to regain the production quantities that will ensure self-sufficiency, the seed law should be revised in favor of the soil, the water, the seeds, the farmers and the people,” said Murat Kapkıran, president of the Istanbul branch of the Agricultural Engineers' Chamber.
Some Turkish agricultural cooperatives have resisted the use of hybrid seeds in favor of ancestral seeds:
“The use of heirloom seeds will reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers. However, in order for ancestral seed exchanges to carry on, producers must be organized. Intermediaries can only be eliminated in this way,” said Hüseyin Fikret Ünal, a farmer and president of a cooperative in the Aegean town of Fethiye.