Science will not give opportunity to food crisis

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  • Prof. Dr. Nazimi Açıkgöz

    Nazimi Açıkgöz graduated from Ankara University in 1964 and earned his Ph D. degree at Munich Technical University in 1972. He then joined Ege University and worked there until his retirement in 2009. His rice breeding studies was supported by CENTO, NATO, IAEA and TUBITAK and at the end, a rice variety “TOAG92" was registered. His studies on computer use in agriculture were on seed database management system and bioistatistics. One of his packages TARIST (Agrostatistics) is still the only Turkish software in this area. He is one of the founders of the “Seed Center” at Ege University, which has been directed between 1998-2004 by him. He is now a freelance writer and moderating a Turkish portal “gelecekteki gıdalarımız” (our future foods, whichs papers are republished in numbers of journals and portals. He writes also blogs in Turkish newspapers Milliyet ( and Radikal ( (

Seed Business in Turkey and Its Neighbors

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 08/05/2020

Every country has to increase its yield per unit area due to its increasing population, increasing annual calorie requirement per capita, shrinking planting areas and global warming. Factors such as seed, fertilizer, water and agrochemicals are critical in increasing yield in crop production. Of these, seed comes first in terms of relative impact. Indeed, the newly developed varieties marked the green revolution. That is why Brazil has ordered a weedkiller-resistant soybean variety to an international company and Pakistan has bought a gene for all national seed companies to improve their new seed varieties from an international company.

The annual value of seed trade in the world is approximately $60 billion. Within the framework of free trade practices, every country can buy and sell seeds, following country regulations and phytosanitary rules. Here, we should differentiate between variety and seed. When you sell seeds, its second and subsequent planting is of no concern to the seller. But when the variety is sold, the breeding right of the seed from the first, second and subsequent plantings is paid to the owner of the variety.

According to the latest report from an international research agency (IFPRI ) on food and agriculture, the Middle East and North African Countries have to increase their agricultural research investments to feed their citizens. The report states: “For decades, many governments in this region neglected to invest in agricultural R&D until the issue became a priority following sharp food price hikes in 2008 in the region. Since then, spending has increased in some countries. Nonetheless, only two of 11 countries -Jordan and Oman- included in the research currently invest more than 1 percent of agricultural output in agricultural research and development, as recommended by the UN”. Quality plant researchers from countries such as Lebanon, Egypt Jordan, who are expected to serve at home country, have also been transferred to the Gulf countries. Although the amount of imports and exports of seed behind Turkey has made progress on this issue.”

According to 2018 figures, Turkey exported:
• Four wheat varieties to Sudan, Syria, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan
• Four cotton varieties to Tajikistan, Sudan, Benin and Syria
• One sunflower variety to Romania, Russia and France
• Three chickpea varieties to Syria, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ukraine and Russia to Bulgaria
• Three paddy (rice) varieties to Macedonia, two to Spain, three to Ukraine, two to Russia.

Turkey is at the forefront of plant breeding and seed production when compared to its neighbors. The timely implementation of seed laws played a major role in establishing this position. Also, in Turkey, in particular the adoption of the breeder’s rights and the share of private sector seed companies having completed their development should not be overlooked.

Despite all these developments, there is a gene-generator problem in Turkish variety improvement. As there is no gene selling institution in the country, universities are not adequately informed about this. It is not known whether a single gene can be registered and protected. For example, the researcher, who identifies a genotype resistant to any plant disease, can market it to a company with research facilities. Unfortunately, universities are unable to do their part in terms of plant breeding.

The common view of the seed stakeholders is a bit more progressive (SEED SECTOR POLICY DOCUMENT 2018-2022 – Tagem 2019):

• “We want to impede the entry of numerous varieties into Turkey. Because the domestic companies do not have their market share due to small number of registered varieties existing in Turkey. So, they want to import new foreign varieties from abroad in order to have their own varieties (by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for breeders’ rights (royalty))”

• The model we need is the cooperation of universities, private sector and public research institutes like western countries. Indeed, if all three units can be under one umbrella, their performance will be 5-10 times more.

Therefore, Article 28 of the Final Declaration of the Agricultural Council (3. Tarım Şurası) states: “In order to use resources more effectively in R&D and innovation, a new institutional infrastructure, including public, private sector and universities, will be established.”

Realization of this decision and establishment of an: «AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF TURKEY» will be the turning point of Turkish seed business.
Nazimi Açıkgöz

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Coronavirus Requires Urgent New Measures for Agriculture

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 01/04/2020

At the current monitoring stage of the coronavirus, some may not grasp immediately its relationship with agriculture. When we ask “what will we eat tomorrow”, that food resources and farming come to our mind. We know that the rings in the food chain are always human focused: farming practices are carried out by human being. In case of any hitch of one of ring means, that the food chain breaks.

Now, let’s give a few examples of these ring deficiencies. In California, where fruit and vegetable farming are intense in the USA, sowing, planting, fertilizing, irrigation, pruning, spraying and harvesting are always carried on with temporary workers coming from Mexico. After the US consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, stopped the H2-A temporary worker visa process, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition wrote in its letter to Pompeo (US foreign minister): “The American people need a stable food supply to maintain healthy diets and strong immune systems, especially now during this national health crisis. The failure to take necessary action to protect our food supply will result in bare shelves in grocery store produce aisles, not from panic buying, but as the result of the federal government directly causing a shortage of critical labor.”

German strawberry and asparagus producers employing temporary migrant workers, despite their closed borders, are currently waiting the temporary workers coming from new EU member states. Germany has closed its border to temporarily agricultural workers from some countries including Bulgaria and Romania. In this case especially asparagus, strawberries and cucumbers harvest will be impacted. But more interesting: “you harvest what you have planted”. What will be the short and medium seasonal plantings in the future? Situations in Italy and Spain seem not to be very promising. State Aid, requested as grants and tax reduction to primary agricultural producers seems not to compensate farmers loses. And therefor they should also be supported for “due to not being able to reach to seasonal workers”.

In EU number of cross-border workers is 1,5 million. Let’s think alternatively, how will the jobs done without worker and how will the not jobless workers feed their families? “Many of them have jobs that are important for us all to get through the crisis,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. And the EU released a list of “critical workers”.  It says it must be allowed continued freedom of movement across its internal borders, despite emergency coronavirus measures including health workers, truck drivers carrying food and seasonal workers.

Turkey-Georgia border was closed after the outbreak of Corona. Thereupon, the tea producers on the Black Sea coasts immediately began to look for a solution to the workers’ problem. Because maintenance was about to start in tea plantations. Let’s have a look inside the country. Soon there will be plum and cherry harvests in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions. Will workers expected to come from outside the province for harvest come? How will they have transferred? In vegetable farming, seedling plantation is carried out in different locations. Seedlings should be planted on time. The grower cannot plant their field without these seedlings. Each step depends on the human being who is the target of the coronavirus. The planting of summer plants like corn and sunflower is about to begin.

Delivering food to consumers is another important problem. Actually, every stage in agriculture is a difficult situation during the virus crisis. It is not particularly easy for wholesalers and exporters. Many agricultural products have to be consumed fresh and you cannot keep them for a long time. Therefore, wholesalers and exporters must dispose of their goods within a specified time. What can you do when border has been closed before you shipped your goods. Trading such quick consumable goods during corona outbreak is a risky job.

 When the virus first appeared in China, Russia closed the border and stopped importing agricultural products. At that time, there was an increase in Turkey’s exports to Russia of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially lemon, but this led to price increases in the domestic market.

Currently, all elements of the sector, from fields to greenhouses, from gardens to wholesalers and markets, are experiencing uncertainty. Although the Ministries of Agriculture are making decisions about the effects of the epidemic on agriculture, there may be a series of problems that fall under the responsibility of other bodies. For example, local organizations or NGO’s may be involved in the creation of local harvest teams, consisting of volunteers. And his could be a temporally solution in case of worker shortage. So, it would be appropriate to create a “VIRUS AND AGRICULTURE WORKING GROUP” included related NGO’s immediately. This board, where related bodies-disciplines are gathered together, can use the chance putting into action on time, without skipping any problems. Again, agricultural and coronavirus-oriented scientific advisory boards to be established within the Ministry will have a great benefit in overcoming this crisis.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

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An article from a guest author: WHY ARE HYBRID CULTIVARS IMPORTANT?

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 10/03/2020

In recent years, thoughts about agriculture with local seeds have been brought to the fore as an alternative to industrial agriculture. Hybrid varieties are largely used in industrial agriculture today. Most of the seeds of hybrid varieties are brought from abroad and a small part (about 20%) is developed and marketed by domestic breeding companies.  This article is prepared to show why hybrid varieties are important today by taking the example of hybrid corn.

At the beginning of the hybrid maize breeding work, hybrid varieties in the form of double cross hybrids were proposed by D.F. Jones in 1918 and became a model for hybrid breeding studies until the single hybrid varieties in the 1960s were developed. In the 1920s and 1930s, basic studies in breeding hybrid maize were conducted for the development of inbred lines from open pollinated varieties and the development of high-yielding double hybrid hybrid combinations of the inbred lines. In the 1950s and 1960s, innovations that made significant changes in hybrid corn seed production applications occurred and the development of single hybrid hybrid varieties came to the fore..

Hybrid breeding started with maize, which is a model plant, and later developed as the development of new hybrid varieties in cross pollinated field and vegetable plants. Today, hybrid varieties have been developed in some self-pollinated plants (tomato, rice) and hybrid breeding studies are still continuing in these plants.

Scientific basis of hybrid variety breeding is very short based on over dominance gene effect. It is possible to explain this very simply. Suppose that the quantitative feature of yield is created by four gene loci. Assume that recessive genes 1, heterozygous genes 2, and dominant genes 1.5 contribute to the yield in the formation of the phenotype. For example, let’s assume that the genes which affect the grain yield of the A parent are 4 aabbccDD genes and their phenotypic value = 1 + 1 + 1 + 1.5 + 4.5. Let’s assume that the 4 genes of ABBccdd genes that affect the grain yield of B parent and their phenotypic value = 1.5 + 1.5 + 1 + 1 = 5. Now, when we artificially hybridize these two parents, 4 grain yields in the chromosomes of hybrid (hybrid = F1) seeds will be combined in the form of heterozygous (AaBbCcDd) and phenotypic value = 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8. t shows that heterozygous, that is, F1 hybrid genotype has more phenotypic value than its parents. When we grow these hybrid (F1) seeds, the yield of the hybrid variety will be higher than that of the female (A) and male (B) parents. In this way, we can simply explain the advantages of hybrid seeds in terms of yield. However, since all genes are heterozygous level in hybridized plants in hybrid (F1) plants, when we plant seeds from these hybrid plants, the plants will be in the F2 generation and half of the heterozygous genes will become homozygous. Therefore, the yield will also decrease greatly. For this reason, it is a scientific necessity based on genetic structure in order to reproduce hybrid seeds every year and sow them as hybrid (F1) seeds and obtain high yield. The superiority of hybrid varieties can be evaluated in terms of producers, consumers and the food industry.

The growers in today’s world make sales depending on the amount of the product they harvest and accordingly have monetary income. At the same time, when their expenses fall from this value, their net income comes out. Although both the seed prices and fertilizer and spraying costs of the hybrid varieties are higher than the open pollinated varieties (developed as a result of population breeding), the growers’ net earnings are always higher due to the high yield. At the same time, since all the plants forming the hybrid (F1) variety have the same genotype, great convenience will be provided in the field operations (fertilizing, irrigation and spraying) that the growers will perform, as both the plant emerge and the growing, maturation and harvesting periods of the plants will be similar. Growers will also be advantageous in terms of marketing and price as there will be no mixing in the size and quality characteristics of the grain product they obtain. For these reasons, today, farmers producing commercial products always prefer to use hybrid varieties.

The most important advantage of hybrid varieties for the consumer is that there is a homogeneity in terms of consumption and use of the products. For example, since the grains in the cobs of hybrid corn are all of the same genotype, they are homogeneous both in terms of cooking time and the chemical content of the grain. However, due to the difference in the size of the cobs and the genotype of each seed, the open pollinated corn will have differences in terms of cooking time and product quality, which may lead to some reduction in quality. These situations show that the desires of the consumer coincide with hybrid varieties.

The most important advantage of hybrid varieties for the food industry is the standardization of the product. This provides great advantages in transportation, storage, packaging and processing of the product. At the same time, it provides great convenience in obtaining high quality products due to the same content of the processed product.

The development of hybrid varieties differs from the breeding of other cultivars. In hybrid variety breeding, it is firstly necessary to develop inbred lines and then to determine their general and specific combining ability and to indicate the most appropriate hybrid combinations and to develop hybrid seed production methods of these combinations. If two generations (greenhouse or the use of the world’s southern hemisphere) are grown per year, it is possible to develop a hybrid variety in 7 to 8 years. Since the 1960s, private sector hybrid seed companies have emerged as the hybrid variety seed must be replanted every year to maintain the same yield level. Today, private sector seed companies develop, produce and market hybrid seeds of many field and vegetable plants. Open-pollinated maize populations were used as source material in the early years of hybrid varieties to obtain inbred lines. However, it is not likely to increase the yield capacity by developing open-pollinated varieties (while the yield of open-pollinated maize is 300 kg / da, the yield of hybrid varieties has exceeded 1500 kg / da).

Corn is a cross pollinated plant, meaning that every seed in the cob can be fertilized with another pollen. This means that if this seed is planted, it means obtaining a plant different from the characteristics of the original plant. In this situation, using the seed from each plant the following year creates a heterogeneous plant population. In other words, it means a community formed by individuals who are different in terms of agricultural aspects such as plant heights, cob sizes, ripening times and grain contents. Therefore, due to the low productivity and heterogeneous nature of such varieties, they are not preferred today both in terms of farmers and the consumers and food industry. Although the population structure of open-pollinated varieties can be improved to some extent with bulk and individual selection breeding methods, it is not possible to be as high-yielding as hybrid varieties benefiting from over dominance gene effect. Therefore, in today’s societies, all developed countries use hybrid varieties in agricultural production, but open pollinated varieties are used in agricultural production in some under developing countries (in some African countries).

Muzaffer TOSUN (

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Meat Consumption May Be Very Effective in Climate Change

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 08/03/2020

Meat Consumption May Be Very Effective in Climate Change

According to the latest estimates, the average temperature is expected to increase by 1.3 C0 by 2050 and 1.2 – 3.7 C0 by 2100. In addition to the increase in temperature, drought also negatively affects agriculture. For example, in the drought, the plant cannot fully develop and ripens early, as a result the yield drops. Of course, the event does not end with this. Changing climate causes vital changes of diseases and harmful factors. It is known that pests have migrated 2,7 kilometers north each year since 1960. Disease factors and pests can extend their lifespan, even increase their reproductive rate, and create new genotypes. This will be a disaster for world agriculture. Because the new diseases and pest-resistant varieties in question have not been improved yet, and drugs to combat them have not yet been formulated!

On the other hand, by 2050, the amount of food we consume now, will have to be increased by 70%.

This increase is estimated to be around 80% for meat and 52% for grain. This means that today’s annual world meat production of 260 million tons will have to be increased to 455 million tons annually in the 2050s.

The negative impact of agriculture, especially livestock, on the environment is not to be underestimated.

For example, 322 liters of water is consumed for one kilogram of vegetables, 962 liters of water for one kilogram of fruit, while 4325 liters for one kilo of chicken, 8763 liters for one kilo of mutton and 8763 liters for one kilo of beef. It should not be forgotten that one third of the grain produced in the world is used as animal feed. Another fact is that 80% of antibiotics used in the USA are used in animal husbandry.

We have to protect our land and water resources for sustainable agricultural production in the future. If we do not pay attention to the use of agricultural resources, we will face problems in terms of sustainable food production in the future. Due to antropogen environmental pollution, the scorecard of agriculture does not look very good. For example, 70% of world clean water consumption is used in food production.

With our todays agricultural production, we have to focus a little more on the “environment-food-health” triangle in the reality of millions of hungry, underfed, insufficient micronutrients and obese populations. Here we come across three objectives:

1) developing in agricultural production technology;

2) reduction in food losses and waste throughout the supply chain;  

3) changing individuals’ food options and dietary patterns.

The issue of agricultural production providing maximum efficiency by minimizing the environment is encountered in many current publications.

Let’s try to examine the possible effects of individuals’ food options and dietary patterns on the protection of our land and water resources. It is a fact that eating habits play a major role in food consumption. The behavior of consumer groups such as vegan and vegetarian, especially in meat consumption, is known very well. Although meat stands out especially as a protein source, it is known that legume proteins from plant sources is almost equal to meat protein in terms of nutrition. In this case, let’s compare the resources required to produce one kilo of meat and one kilo of beans in the table below. It is immediately noticeable that the required production area, amount of water, fertilizer and chemical to be used, is almost ten times differing.

   Land (m2)Water(m3)Fertilizer (gr)Chemical (gr)

When we convert the figures into protein, we see that 18 times more land, 10 times more water, 12 times more fertilizer and 10 times more chemicals are used to obtain one kg of meat protein.

The amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere for a kg production of some foods can be viewed on the chart. As can be seen from the graphic, when a kilo of beans is produced, one kg of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. This figure rises to two kg of CO2 for one kg of milk, 5 kg of CO2 for one kg of chicken, 10 kg of CO2 for one kg of cheese and 27 kg of CO2 for one kg of beef

In general, it is known that those who follow a plant-based diet, namely vegetarians, are healthier. They have a very low risk of developing many diseases. Vegetarians are very unlikely to develop type 2 diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease and other non-communicable diseases. A well-planned vegetarian diet is sufficient for body development and growth. Meatless diets are suitable not only for prevention, but also for the treatment of many diseases.

It is estimated that the vegetarian lifestyle can reduce the greenhouse gas level by an average of 35%, food production areas by an average of 42% and agricultural water use by an average of 28%. This fact has already initiated some practices to shift to a meat-free diet in societies that are environmentally conscious. The meatless menu application launched in the canteens and restaurants of UK universities already has 44 universities

It is observed with pleasure that a plant-based meat market has been opened and it is estimated that an amount of 85 billion dollars will be reached by 2030s.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

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Plant-Based Meat Market Will Reach US$ 85 Billion In 2030’s

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 05/01/2020

A Swiss investment firm UBS estimates that the 4.6 billion dollars plant-based protein and meat market in 2018 will reach 85 billion dollars by 2030[1]. The same source adds that the plant-based milk market could reach 37.5 billion dollars for the 2025’s, while the improving health and welfare of society is the main driver of these increases (one billion consumers in the next decade will move to the middle class!).

On the other hand, in a report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it discussed the expectation of the increase in agricultural production towards the 2050’s. The report mentioned the need to increase the amount of food we currently consume by 70 percent, while the increase is estimated to be around 80 percent for meat and 52 percent for grain. This means that today, 260 million tons of world meat production will have to be increased to 455 million tons in the 2050’s.

In the UBS report, while focusing on environment and animal health, more and more consumers prefer plant-based protein sources. Indeed, while the negative contribution of agriculture to the environment is expressed, animal husbandry comes to the fore. For example, 322 litres of water for one kilo of vegetables, 962 litres of water for one kilo of fruit, 4325 litres for one kilo of chicken meat, 8763 litres for one kilo of mutton and 8763 litres of water for one kilo of beef. In addition, one third of the grain produced in the world is for eating, that is, for animal feeding. In addition to water consumption, animal husbandry cannot be said to be innocent. It is not new information that substances such as pathogen, metal, drug – hormone residues mix into water. Another fact is that 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the USA are used in animal husbandry.

80 percent of the world’s agricultural land, meadow-pasture and vegetative production areas for eating are devoted to animal husbandry. According to various estimates, 6-32 percent of the greenhouse gas incidents are responsible for animal husbandry.

By 2013, scientists began to show that meat could now be obtained in laboratories. Not only that, the event was commercialized (University of Maastricht, Netherlands, Prof. Mark Post, (Mosa Meat)). In the US, companies established in this direction are supported commercially by food giants such as Memphis Meats, Cargill, Tyson Food, as well as well-known investors such as Bill Gates and Richard Bronson. It is a fact that EU companies like Nestle and Unilever will not miss this opportunity. The German PHW group has already started the acquisition of the new entrepreneur Israeli “Supermeat”. This business seems to tend to move beyond chicken and beef. FinlessFoods utilizes cell culture to artificially produce red tuna meat on land, which has reached its extinction point.

In fact, meat is mainly composed of muscle, fat and connective tissue cells. From the stem cell, meat formation begins when appropriate nutrients are provided for their development. This system, which is also monitored in the animal body, can be performed not only in the laboratory but also in larger environments. Thus, our meat will be healthier and safer without antibiotics, medicines. These artificial products seem to be able to find a place because of the above mentioned environmental disadvantages, their cheapness, their benefits to human health and their potential to protect the welfare of animals. Although the soybean is mainly provided by the plant nutrient medium, the yellow pea was found to be most suitable.

It may take time to fully launch. Although Memphis Meats calls “We are on the market in 2021”, it is a fact that many scientific problems are waiting for a solution.

Meanwhile, another US firm, Justforall, announced that it would be chicken-free chicken meat on the shelves by the end of 2018[2].

The vegetarian menu offered by Impossible Burger is also interesting in nearly 1500 restaurants in the USA. As meat substitutes here, vegetable protein (soy) tissues provide flavour equivalent to meat, while color provides with leghemoglobin from soy roots. However, said plant hemoglobin is low in soy and will now be derived from a yeast species (Pichia pastoris)[3]. Although these yeasts are genetically modified organisms, they are not subject to biotechnology regulations either in the United States or in the EU.

A chick could only be marketed in 112 days in the 1900’s, but this time was reduced to 45 days. I wonder what bioeconomics will offer us. Or will he? It seems that the economic dimension of the event is so important that the US Cattlemen’s Association has taken action to ban plant-based clean meat[4].

Nazimi Acıkgoz
Note: This blog has been translated from a Turkish paper and also republished in





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Organic Food Market approaches $ 100 billion

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 18/07/2019

The green revolution of the 1960s, which ended the world food shortages, created the opportunity for the organic agriculture market to flourish in the 1980s. Its emergence is based on a logic that cannot be rejected by anyone. Organic agriculture started due to the health and environmental problems caused by chemicals such as fertilizer and pesticide used in classical agriculture, unfortunately lags behind classical agriculture in terms of yield.

As can be seen in the graph[1], organic wheat yield is only 40% of the yield in conventional agriculture in some countries. When the comparison is made on annual (grass) and perennial (trees) basis, it is observed that the difference decreases in perennials. In the comparison of legume-others, it can be said that the yield difference decreases in legumes, although not statistically. In the comparison of species, the difference was found to be the least in fruits, less in oil and vegetables, and more in root crops such as potatoes due to the depth of roots.

The main reason for the low yields per unit area in organic agriculture compared to classical agriculture is that genotypes and varieties that provide maximum yield in limited nutrient media have not been developed yet. The condition of organic agriculture with organic seeds which is also included in the directives of organic agriculture (Açıkgöz N., and Ilker E. 2006 Cereal breeding strategies for organic and low-external-input crop production systems, Paper presented at Joint Organic Congress, Odense, Denmark, May 30-31, 2006), organic-classical yield difference does not seem to be closed unless provided.

The organic plant industry demands a higher price for its products. It can be observed that the price difference exceeds twice that of some products. This means that organic products will be consumed only by the masses with high income levels. In other words, the low income strata do not exist in the organic product market. Organic farming, including Turkey, is supported by many countries. While 1000 ₺ per hectare is given in Turkey, Germany gives 10 percent additional premium to classical agricultural support. However, due to the fact that no difference could be observed in organic-classical products in terms of nutritional values[2], there has been hesitation in organic supports. As a matter of fact, the United Kingdom has stopped spending the funds it has allocated[3].

In spite of all this, in 2017, expenditures on organic food approached 100 billion dollars. This is quite striking since data of 1999 was 11 billion dollars. However consumption is concentrated in prosperous countries: 40 billion dollars in the US, 37 billion dollars in the EU (France 10 billion dollars, Germany 8 billion dollars). Meanwhile the total value of the world food market in 2015 was 5 trillion dollars.

While the area allocated to organic agriculture is 0.9 percent of the total agricultural area in the USA, this figure is three times more in the EU: 2.9 percent. Some countries show really interesting figures in the proportion of organic land on agricultural land: Austria 22 percent, Estonia 19 percent and Sweden 18 percent. There is a large difference in the number of farmers engaged in organic farming: while they are 400,000 in the EU and only several thousand in the United States.

Between 2000 and 2016, per capita consumption of organic products in Europe increased fourfold. In addition to demand, production support was also effective in this increase. According to 2016 data, Europe consumes an average of 60 euros of organic food per year. Based on the fact that 6.4 percent of the EU’s agriculture and environmental budget is allocated to organic agriculture, organic food consumption should be expected to increase further in the EU. This rate increases even more in some countries. For example, it reaches 13.2 percent in Denmark.

The organic products sector which has a price of 150 percent higher than conventional products will surely have many problems. For this reason, the certification bodies have to constantly set new standards. Many issues, such as bio-labeling, monitoring of pesticide – fertilizer residues, setting thresholds, force these organizations and their upper organs to be alert with new products. If import-export is involved in all of this, it becomes clear that the business will not be easy. “Mafia ties were found in Italy related to wheat imports from Romania that had been labelled as organic, the Financial Times reported.  Another example of fraud is 40 tonnes of German strawberries labelled as organic, which were found to contain 25 pesticides, German media outlet Taz reported this month”[4].

Nazimi Açıkgöz





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Unexpected Rise of Chinese Universities

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 07/12/2018

Starting in 1995, China’s central government carried out a series of programs aimed at spending billions of dollars to raise China’s top universities to world standards. First, a package application was launched to raise 100 universities to the level of the western universities of the 21stcentury. In 2015, a second program focused on designated departments wit hinthese institutions.

China, a “developing country” in the 21th century, has been one of the superpowers of science and technology for the last 30 years. China’s scintific and technological advancement will lead to its rapid economic development. According to Scopus[1] records, China has increased the number of publications in science, mathematics and computerscience to from 200,000 to 1.650.000 between 1986 and 2016 (Chart1). The citation rate of Chinies scientists have reached 23% in all countries. If Chinese publications were included, this figure would have reached 37%.

In 1900, resistance against for eigners, especially Christians, began in Beijing. This movement, known as the “Boxer Rebellion” has resulted in China’s payment to the United States as compensation. Tsinghua University[2] was founded in 1911 with these funds. Today, this university is a source of pride for China through science, technology and engineering research. Accordingto Scopus records, this university is number one, among the most cited 15 universities in the world; also SEVEN of them are Chinese, which is an evidence of the rapid rise of the country in science and technology.

Money as a lever, provides universities with the opportunity to plan for top class research intriguing academicians to sophisticated research which can yield to more powerful findings. Universities can open up new horizons for their academicians within the framework of their monetary powers. About 30 years ago in China, universities have started to give scholarships to their academicians in return for their published papers in certain global science magazines-journals. Today, these awards have reached to a very high amounts. A recent example is US $ 165,000 scholarship awarded for a publication in the “Nature” journal which is 20 times as the annual salary of an academic in China. These monetary awards have had a direct impact on the rise of the rate of Chinese-cited papers from 4% in 2000 to 19% in 2016.

Generally, PhD studies are prominent in research. Tsinghua University believes in the importance of the number in academic achievement and gives the opportunity to many PhD students. In 2017, 1,385 candidate have completed their thesis at this university. In the same year, only 645 PhD students have graduated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

With the support of the state in recent years, Chinese universities have benefited from reverse brain drain. Universities like Tsinghua may not providet he facilities and opportunities of a western university. But the idealist scientists, who want to raise their children in their homeland, with national pride will always emerge. As yearly salaries were raised to the six-digits, China has benefited the most from this trend. For ample, Tsinghua University transferred Qian Yingyi, a scientist who has worked at universities such as Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, who has focused to the newhorizons of innovation. Qian put into practice an American-style personnel system with no personal relations or political impositions, focusing on “a six-year research period, followed by a performance evaluation, based  on publications, followed by a continuous job offer or put an end to the task”. The results were astonishing. The step up of Tsinghua University in the ranking of Chinese mathematics-computer-research league table was unexpected. In 2006-09, the university was ranked 66th and it was number one in the last year!

In 2012, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen has invited He Jiankui, one of their former physic students back, after his completion of a PhD in Physics at Rice University in Texas, and post doctoral research at Stanford University focused on gene-genome sequences. His father described Jiankui’s return to his country with a short sentence: “He found the Chinese scientific research is weak and he wants to improve it!”. And he has indeed! Jianku has enabled the birth of twin babies with genome editing (not GMO)—the first gene editing result in human medicine in the world. CRISPR/Cas method has been used to regulate the genes of twin babies to be resistant to HIV[3],[4]. This method is used in the plant world recent years. In the number of researches, conducted in this field, China is also the leading one (541). It is followed by USA (387), Japan (819) and Germany[5].

All nations should look to China as an example when it comes to attractingtalented, enthusiastic and new research teams and replacing their mediocre performers who are a drain to the system with this new blood. Such a system that is divorced from personal agendas and political impositions is the onlyway to move our universes up in world rankings.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

Note: This paper has been summarized from a Turkish blog:

[1] Scopusis the world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed researchliterature.





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Russia’s Great Investment in Genetics and Breeding

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 23/06/2019

In an unexpected period, Russia announced that it has allocated a large amount of new breeding technologies[1]. According to information from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the targets of this US $ 1.7 billion investment of have been set to develop 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 and another set of 20 gene-edited varieties by 2027.  The main aim of the project is to develop new varieties resistant to diseases in culture plants such as barley, sugar beet, wheat and potato.

Mutation, selection, hybridization and similar classical breeding techniques have been used for breeding new genotypes that are adaptable to varying environmental conditions.  Recently tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic developments have been also used. But in the last decades artificial mutations by using -X, gamma and similar radioactive rays- have served to plant breeders to breed thousands of new varieties. Mutation is a spontaneous or intentional change in living organism. Since 2010, this process has begun to be carried out in laboratories by molecular basis, with genomic arrangements. In this method, genotypes can be improved in a short time and reach the farmers. Gene regulation includes a number of new gene engineering methods such as CRISPR. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by changing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can also call this process artificial micro-mutation.

GMOs are registered after passing through many risk tests such as environment and health before they are introduced to the consumers. Therefore, the cost of a genotype to the company exceeds US$ 100 million which is the main reason GMO and global multinational corporations have become synonymous. On the other hand the cost of developing genotypes with gene editing is almost 1/10th of GMO’s, therefore they can be utilized even by low-budget new startups, universities and even public institutions[2].

In 2018, the first commercial product of genome editing animal, tilapia developed with this new method was commercialized in Argentina[3]. It is the fourth most consumed sea product after shrimp, salmon and canned tuna. At the beginning of 2019, the oil of the new soybean variety[4], which was developed by the same method in the USA, took its place on the market shelves. The oil of this improved variety contains several times less “saturated fatty acids” and healthier oleic acid than ordinary soybeans.

However, the gene editing method was accepted by EU as GMO and in the year 2018 cultivation of the varieties improved with this technique have banned.

Russia, in 2016, had prohibited the cultivation of GMO crops, except research activities. And it has not been prepare yet any legal regulations on agricultural biotechnology.

Alexey Kochetov, director of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, lauded this new effort stressing that the country has been “chronically underfinanced” for decades. The research program also suggests that gene-edited products will be exempted from a law passed in 2016 that bans planting of genetically modified crops in Russia, except for research use.

Molecular geneticist Konstantin Severinov, who helped to develop the research program, is emphasizing the importance of CRISPR technology in making Russia less dependent on imported crops and is claiming: “Despite considering itself a bread basket, Russia is highly dependent on imports when it comes to elite crop varieties, so [the government decided] something needs to be done. Luckily, a few RAS members managed to make the case that CRISPRCas9 is a good thing”.

But whether Russian scientists can meet the program’s ambitious goals is unclear. Despite helping to develop the program, Severinov — who once famously described working in Russia as like “swimming in a pool without water” — says that it does not address the “inhumanely bad” conditions for doing life-sciences research in Russia, including red tape and poor access to supplies.

According to 2017 data, Russia devotes only 1.1% of GNP to scientific research, and it lags behind both China (2.1%) and the USA (2.8%).

This breakthrough of Russia is a striking example for seed industries of many countries. Let us first accept that gene editing technologies are inevitable for plant breeding. These techniques will cover greatly to plant breeder’s need for new gen material. Let’s take a look at how Germany has solved the issue of developing new genes – genotypes – varieties, material, which is the most important bottleneck for seed sector of almost every nation. Federal Ministry of Education and Research is responsible such issues.  Ministry, within the framework of the GABI – Plant Genome Research Program -, support a macro project  “PLANT 2030”,  oriented to Germany’s plant research, on demands of private sector. GABI is a public-private joint project, with financial support coming mainly from the Ministry of Education and Research. WPG (Business Platform Promoting GABI Plant Genome Research e.V.) represents the private sector in Plant 2030.

This proves that improving gen material in molecular laboratories needs number of processes like communications with public and private plant breeders, making the necessary legal arrangements and preparing the research infrastructure. Actually it does not seem to be solved in a short time. In that case, is Konstantin Severinov right about his concerns mentioned above?

Nazimi Acikgoz





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Urgent Need for Rural Revitalization

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 10/05/2019

During conversations in some countries on agricultural production, the expression of “the people have being deserting the villages” is used. In fact, this is a signal that we will in future be experiencing some problems in food production. The decreases in the rural populations in the countries, where the smallholder farmers are predominant mean the decreases in the numbers of agricultural entrepreneurs and agricultural workers, lead to decreases in agricultural production. However, the world expects 70% more production in the 2050s. In order to sustain the agricultural production due to the increasing population and the rising  quality of life , we must ensure that the non-agricultural lands be transformed into medium and large enterprises, or a series of socioeconomic models developed to keep the farmers to live  in the countryside.

If we set off from the second option, we can start by revitalizing the countryside and exploring all aspects for making it a good place to live for the present and future generations. The main reasons for escaping from the countryside, we cannot be solely economic. Increasing input prices have really intimidated the peasants owing to the changes in social life due to the disappearance of the old customs and traditions, difficulties in marriage, the shrinking land due to inheritance, the inability to possess any modern agricultural equipment and the marketing difficulties due to not being cooperative members.

So, how can we make the countryside more attractive?

At the beginning of 2019, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) published a report[1] on rural population movements. According to the report, 43% of the world’s population is in the countryside and 17% of them are below the hunger limit. This limit is 7% in the cities.

The report says that the crisis in rural areas threatens to achieve food security and the following issues are addressed:

  • There is a crisis in the world rural areas and this crisis can be solved by the revitalization of the rural;
  • It can be found a little utopic to revitalize rural areas and make them good places for the present and future generations. However, taking appropriate steps to address all aspects of the event will be successful.
  • One of the most serious challenges facing rural areas is the lack of adequate employment opportunities;
  • Revitalizing the world’s rural areas through a rur­banomics approach holds the key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring that every­one can contribute to and benefit from the economic growth and development
  • Adopting rurbanomics as an approach for strengthening the rural–urban linkages to promote rural transformation. Strengthening rural–urban linkages, from farms to small towns to megacities, can benefit rural labor, production, distribution, markets, services, consumption, and envi­ronmental sustainability.
  • Rural areas can still create options for strengthening rural economies, such as the introduction of small food systems (pickle mills, etc.), post-harvest activities (tomato drying, etc.) and new dietary products;
  • Diversifying and improving vocational training will create a potential for a productive rural workforce.

In 1990’s a Rurban Project (KöykenteProjesi; village-township) has been started in Turkey’s Mesudiye District of Ordu. Within the context of Köykent Project, 9 villages were interconnected. Within the scope of the project, a lumber factory was established within the framework of the Build-Operate-Transfer model. Electricity, water and telephone services were brought to the villages. Health and Cultural Centers were established. Football – basketball courts, children’s playgrounds and schools were built. Many of the peasants who had left their villages to find work have returned. However in the 2004s, new governments stopped the project[2] in the way in which the Village Institutes[3] (KöyEnstitüleri) ended.

Farmers in many countries as well as those in Turkey are quite aged. Despite the government’s policy of support the young farmers continue to move away from the agricultural sector. In some regions you cannot find any farmers younger than 40 years of age. The most important reason for this is the lack of social life in the villages. Today, the decline in farmers’ income is due to price instability, rising costs and extreme climatic events.

Therefore, in the future, with the exception of greenhouse cultivation and some special cases, the chances for small holder farmers to survive can only continue at the level of hobby gardens. The fact that the producer is alone in agricultural activities is the main factor in the orientation of the young people towards other ways of life. Could any attempt be made to help to revitalize such hopeless villages? A striking example of revitalization:  Yozgat Kabalı Village Project carried out with the cooperation of public-private sector-citizens[4].

In 2009, an extraordinary Public Private Community Partnership (PPCP) was formed in Yozgat, Turkey.

The partnership aimed at keeping the young farmers in production and integrating small (due to heritage) and abandoned agricultural lands.

The project was financed by a public coalition including the Village Service Association, the Chamber of Agriculture and the Irrigation Cooperative. In phase 1 of the project, 1680 parcels that belonged to 468 farmers, have been combined into a single piece and cherries, apples, pears, and peaches have been planted in 564 Ha land.

Since then, the project has been rented to a private company where 70 farmers are employed full-time. The number of workers during the harvest season goes up to 900; and the number of tractors in the village has decreased from 200 to 15. As of 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to expand the scope of the project to 250 additional villages.

According to the above-mentioned IFPRI report, the EU is quite active in the revitalization of the countryside. While the annual per capita income in cities was 121% of the general average and this value remained at 72% in the countryside. Due to the fact that only 21% of the farmer population was under the age of 44, the EU allocated € 100 billion to be used in this field for the period of 2014-2020.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

Note: This artical has been summarized from a Turkish paper published in: and  republished also in:





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First Plant Product of Gen Editing: A New Soybean Variety

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 10/03/2019

 At the beginning of 2019, soybean oil with improved quality did took its place on the market shelves. The mentioned soybean oil contains several times less saturated fatty acids and healthier oleic acid than ordinary soybeans. Their most striking feature is that they form less trans fatty acids in frying conditions. This new variety is the first bread commercial plant by new breeding techniques (NBT – gene editing). In fact, an article on the first agricultural product tilapia and also promising products in the pipeline[1] bread by this method, were published in this portal[2].

It is useful to give a brief description of this new gene regulation: mutation, selection, hybridization and similar classical breeding techniques have been used for breeding new genotypes. Recently, tissue culture, gene transfer and other molecular biologic technique have been introduced. But in the last decades, artificial mutation has served to plant breeders, who bread thousands of varieties developed by X, gamma and similar radioactive rays. Mutation is a spontaneous occurring or with purposeful planned changes in living genes. From 2010, genomic arrangements have started to apply in laboratories by molecular basis.  In this method, genotypes can be registered in a short time and reach the producers. Gene regulation includes a number of new gene engineering methods such as CRISPR. In these methods, there is no transfer of any gene from outside like there is in GMOs. On the contrary, new genotypes are created by changing the target gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes. This application can increase or decrease the effect of gene. We can call this process artificial micro-mutation.

GMOs are going registered after passing through many risk tests such as environment and health before they are placed on the market shelves. Therefore, the cost of a genotype to the company usually is over USD 100 million. For this reason, GMO method is almost synonymous with global multinational companies. On the contrary, the cost of developing genotypes with NBT is almost 1/10th of GMO’s. Such a level is so suitable for local companies, because it can be met even by low-budget new entrepreneurial firms, universities and public institutions.

An entrepreneur biology company Calyxt, located in Minnesota (USA), succeeded a micro mutation application in soybean by gene editing method.  They were able to bread a new soy variety, which is registered and has been commercialized within five years and has been sown in 2018 on an area of 6700 hectares. The company focuses mainly on quality of wheat, potatoes, rapeseed and alfalfa.  They did not interest too much with yield increment or resistance to disease or pests. So to say they prefer to serve mainly to a group of consumers, oriented towards healthy nutrition! Company do have almost a dozen crops, improved by gene editing in the pipeline:  high-fiber wheat, potatoes that stay fresh longer, better-tasting tomatoes, low-gluten wheat, apples that don’t turn brown, drought-resistant soybeans and potatoes better suited for cold storage.

Some countries’ approach on NBT are astonishing. China is leading with 541 projects in gene editing research, followed by USA 387 and Japan with 81 projects. Some example of their gene editing products in pipeline: seedless tomatoes in Japan; low fatty acid soy in the US (in 2019 in market); easier digestible alfalfa in the US; herbicide resistant rice and herbicide resistant flax in Canada; low gluten wheat in Spain; the shelf life extended tomato in Japan etc.

Those will be pioneers for further crop development for plant breeders, who especially want to improve new cultivars for food security under the aspect of global warming.

Generally plant breeders aimed mostly high yield and quality and concentrated on commonly cultivated plants, such as RICE, CORN, WHEAT, SOYBEAN and POTATO. The main reason of this attitude is to reach to the maximum income. Let’s remember! Plant breeding right or royalty is working perfectly in the world. Just a question: In this case how will benefit from the advantage of these techniques EU and developing countries, because they are accepting this method like GMO[3] and banning in their country. It is understandable; developing countries have not established their infrastructure yet. What about EU?  EU accepts gene editing as genetically modified organism while it is a biotechnological process and applies the same regulation like GMO. What about a foreign gene transfer?  So, import processes also will continue in the same manner for products developed with the gene editing. 




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What’s New in the World Seed Market?

Posted by Nazimi Acikgoz on 30/12/2018


The first objective in seed business is to improve new varieties. To target farmers, seed companies have to provide the most desired cultivars and they must be best quality and perform maximum yield, resist to diseases-pests, heat-cold, drought etc. This can be achieved with plant breeding. Until recent years selection, hybridization, mutation, tissue culture, foreign gene transfer (GMO) and other molecular biologic developments have been used as plant breeding methods. Mutation, used to apply purposefully, to change genes of any living organism with X ray radiation or colchicine. In recent years, this process has begun to be carried out in laboratories at the molecular level, by intra-genome arrangements. These genome arrangements (gene editing), which are also defined as new breeding techniques (NBT), include a series of new gene engineering methods, like “Tilling, Protoplast Fusion, Cogenesis, Oligonucleotide Techniques, CRISPR-Cas9 etc.”[1]These methods do not involve any external gene transfer as in GMOs. Conversely, new genotypes are created by silencing the targeted gene with the help of transient DNA-cutting enzymes, applied in the process step, increasing or decreasing the effect, i.e. micro-mutation.

What noteworthy is that, with these methods, development costs do not reach hundreds of millions of dollars, as it does not require a series of risk analyses like in the GMO technique! In other words, some kind of development with these methods can be realized by small and medium-sized or low-budget plant breeding startups, universities and public institutions. But in EU gen editing has been accepted as GMO and therefor cost of any gen edited new variety could be as high as GMO. Contrarily in the USA, registration formalities of NBT are different than the GMO registration systems and cost of any genome editing variety almost only 1/10 of a GMO.

In the last variety registration application in the USA, 23 candidates were on the list, all improved with NBT. Interestingly only three of them were belonging to the big – global multinational seed companies. The other 20 were owned by new 5-6 years old small – medium enterprises or universities. This means, such development coming with NBT, seems to shake the world seed market. This is an advantage for small companies, to develop new cultivars in short time with the minimum cost. The question here is how long they can keep such a position against global multinational companies.

As an example of the changes in the global seed market, let us have a look at the changes in the market share of the companies in upland cotton seeds application between the years 1976-2017 (Chart, OECD (2018)[2]). First we witness that only 10% of the farmers were sowing the seeds saved by themselves from their field by the 1990s. It means that 90% farmers were getting their seeds from seed companies. At the same time public institution’s seed share has been transferred to the private sector and public seed have almost lost the market share. Structural changes have started with mergers and acquisitions of the private sector and Delta & Pine have acquired Paymaster and Landkart. As we reached the 2000s biotechnology and GMO began to dominate the market. And now 90% of market share belongs to three cottonseed companies.

Although world seed market is quite small compared to other sectors, food security is very important in terms of agricultural economy, environment and nutrition. Contribution of seed (variety – genotype) to increase the yield is almost 88%[3]. It proves the importance of seed and seed business seems to be a quite attractive one. We cannot oversee the fact that the Dutch vegetable breeders did have the highest profit margin (15%) in the agricultural sector. The CEO of United Phosphorus Limited, which acquired ADVANTA (a medium-sized, global seed firm) in 2006, is striking about the sector: “The future of seed business is bright and seed business is a great sector with lots of potential. ADVANTA has grown three times since we bought it. I see the company’s growth potential ten times more”.

This attractiveness, market values and many others are reasons for acquisitions and mergers in world seed companies, which cannot be observed very often in other sectors[4]. Although mentioned merger complies with international laws, for many reasons, react not only consumers, but also civil society organizations. The main reason is that we have not yet found any answer to following important questions: a) Will seed prices increase? b) Will genetic studies be reduced? c) Is there a decrease in the number of varieties offered to the farmer? 

According to 2017 data, the world commercial seed market is around $ 62 billion. 42% of this amount is transgenic i.e. GMO. By 2022, the market is expected to reach $ 78 billion, with a cagr of 7%. According to 2015 data, the organic seed market is estimated at $ 1.6 billion, with a cagr of 12.5%. The seed coating market reached 10 billion dollars according to 2017 data. In this sub-sector, which is expected to increase yearly by 11%, lion’s share (51%) is in insecticide chemicals. 

How can be evaluated the developing countries seed business, in this context? Surely numbers of successful seed companies with export capability are exist almost in every country. NBT provide such a facility to small – medium seed firms for genetic improvement of new varieties, so they can compete almost with international firms. Arranging legal regulations like tax and providing credit, scientific consultant, expert, infrastructure and hardware support, will make them more competitive. But we should not miss the support of genitor. For this Universities should be oriented with planned projects, focused on the target. 

Nazimi Açıkgöz

Note: This article is compiled from a Turkish article “World Seed Market” in

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