For Turkish companies it is not easy to get their hybrid seed varieties marketed in the European Union. This is as a result of the principle of ‘Equivalence’. In combination with the recent tensions between Turkey and Europe, this was all the more reason for European Seed to sit down with Hamdi Çiftçiler, Vice President of May Seed Turkey to learn more about equivalence and his take on the seed sector.
European Seed (ES): You recently attended the 4th Food Congress in the Turkish city of Bursa. Why is it important to make the bridge between plant breeding and the seed sector on the one side, and the food sector on the other side?
Hamdi Çiftçiler (HC): Today, not many people are really aware of the importance of the integration and inter relation between the plant breeding/seed industry and the food sectors covering all the necessary segments from fresh produce to processed food to feed etc. The food industry needs to supply disease free, uniform, high quality products with shelf life, better nutritional values and easier and efficient processing features. We should explain in all possible occasions that this development is done by the seed industry.
ES: How does your company bridge the gap to the food sector?
HC: Our focus today is on both oil, feed, industrial crops and processor and fresh vegetables. In all these segments we work closely with the food industry for special products such as High Oleic Sunflowers with healthy oils, silage corn and alfalfa with better feed values, processor tomatoes, sweet corn etc. to meet the needs of the food industry as well as to make them more profitable with value added characteristics of their final produce.
ES: Your company is doing a lot of seed trade with the EU. Are there any challenges that could be improved?
HC: I would say not as a company but Turkey as an EU Membership candidate country, with a great seed business infrastructure and capacity, has some challenges with the EU on some very important equivalence related points. One sharp example for me is, as a Turkey based breeding company, we have no right to apply for the registration of our developed hybrids in the EU in the case where we carry out the maintenance of our fully owned parental lines in Turkey. During 2017 we also heard that in Turkey produced untreated sunflower seeds were specifically tested upon entry to France and rejected at the entry point for a 0.01 % neonicotinoid contamination claim. We already know that France has a far more flexible treatment to seeds originating from France.
ES: You mention ‘equivalence’. Can you explain how this works and what are the concerns on the current regulations for equivalence?
HC: The EU has an Equivalent Country Listing where Turkey is not covered. If the developed parental lines of the hybrids are maintained in a country outside of this listing, there is no possibility to apply, therefore to register and commercialize a hybrid or an OP variety within the borders of EU.
ES: You visit the ESA Annual Meeting every year. Why is it important for you to come to the meeting?
HC: We have the chance to meet with our co-operators, suppliers, customers all in one location and this creates an excellent opportunity. We are also having the chance to see many friends from different countries of our sector and it is always great to have access to more information, exchange ideas, look for more collaboration opportunities etc.
ES: What is the main barrier that you would like to improve in the seed trade?
HC: I believe that phytosanitary measures are a growing concern for the seed industry especially for the developing markets in the world. We see several different applications, control systems, border testing and rejections from many different markets for some diseases which are already fully present in the country and/or negligible due to the nature of the disease or other factors etc. There is a bigger need for harmonization and unification of applications.
ES: In the past we have written about the lack of young people going into the seed trade. Does your company also face these challenges?
HC: I agree that the seed industry should attract bright young people to study agronomy science, breeding related topics. We will definitely need more scientists, breeders who will innovate, and develop novelties to feed the world.
ES: What kind of advice would you like to give to young people who are contemplating to study agronomy, plant breeding or a related field?
HC: I always advise them that this is a very good and wise approach. Seed industry today creates great opportunities for young agronomy professionals on several different disciplines at the international level. If they like to work in with nature, if they like to travel to different environments and if they are dedicated; opportunities are endless.