‘GIFT: FG’s partnership with WorldFish, BMGF, others, inimical to Nigerian farmers’ growth’

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By Chinyere Anyanwu and Okwe Obi, Abuja

Following the concerns raised recently by FishNet Alliance, a network of fishers in several African countries, on the planned introduction of the genetically improved tilapia into Nigeria by the end of this month, the Vice President of Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN), Mr. Nurudeen Tiamiyu, has responded to clear the air on issues raised in the report.

Tiamiyu sated that, “the issue, based on our own information, is not what you read online concerning what FishNet talked about. What is involved here is GIFT (Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia). GIFT is not genetic modification; it’s not a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). It’s just a selection that is improved and it is for breeding. GMO is different from GIFT. What they are doing is just to improve what we have.”

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Though the TADAN vice president agreed that introducing GIFT tilapia into the wild has adverse implications for the local breed, he explained that consumption of GIFT tilapia has no negative effect on the health of consumers as it is not GMO fish.   

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He, however, said the bone of contention is the non-involvement of TADAN members in the GIFT initiative being embarked upon through a partnership between the Federal Government, WorldFish, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Premium Aquaculture Limited (PAL).

According to him, “the problem in that issue is the Federal Government’s involvement. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was discussing with our association on getting improved GIFT for us but unfortunately, the foundation and the Federal Government went to pick a private company and they are now saying it’s for Nigeria. But we told them that if it’s for Nigeria, it should be domiciled in our own research institution and should also involve all Nigerian farmers. But now, Nigerian farmers are not involved.

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“Only an Ogun State-based company, owned by Indians, is involved in the partnership with Bill Gates Foundation and the Federal Government. What they are doing is of no benefit to Nigerian farmers.