FishNet Alliance denounces the introduction of genetically improved tilapia in Nigeria

Nigerians may not be aware, but genetically enhanced tilapias are on their way to the country and are expected to arrive this month, May 2022, the Fishnet Alliance has warned.

According to a report by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, improved tilapia is to be introduced following an “inclusive legal agreement” between WorldFish and Premium Aquaculture Limited through a Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) scheme.

“This agreement will herald the establishment of a GIFT-based aquaculture industry in Nigeria. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are collaborating with WorldFish and PAL in an effort to have WorldFish/PAL GIFT tilapia in Nigerian fish markets here the end of 2023,” he says.

The genes used to improve tilapia could come from a variety of organisms, including other fish, corals, mice, bacteria, or even humans. They are basically produced to fit industrial aquaculture models with dubious consideration for possible ecological and environmental concerns.

FishNet Alliance, a network of fishers in several African countries, expressed concern that apart from environmental and health challenges, it is unclear which government agencies were involved in this transaction.

“Improvement of tilapia will not address the root cause of the challenges in the fisheries sector in Nigeria. Nor will it solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the country,” said Stephen Oduware, coordinator of FishNet Alliance. “Issues affecting the Nigerian fisheries sector, namely: pollution from the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas and other minerals; insecurity and piracy; fishing activities illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by national and international trawlers – leading to overfishing of target and non-target fish species; destruction of mangrove forests, among other issues, are issues on which the government should focus its attention . »

Fish farming in Nigeria is mostly done near the river or in creeks and there are fears that there may be interactions between ‘genetically enhanced’ fish and relatives in the wild. If these fish were genetically modified, research has shown that releasing as few as sixty fish into a wild population of 60,000 would cause the wild population to go extinct in less than 40 fish generations. The implication of having genetically enhanced tilapia released into the wild is not known.

Genetically modified (GM or GM) zebrafish (Danio rerio) have escaped from fish farms in Brazil and are breeding in creeks across Brazil, a new study has found. The researchers say their findings “confirm that escapes from aquaculture facilities are common and could have serious consequences for local fish populations, including endemic, rare and endangered species”. They conclude that the production of non-native species should be avoided and that transgenic fish should be banned.

“The leak of GM fish from Brazil should be a big wake-up call for our Nigerian regulators and government,” says Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, Food Sovereignty Program Coordinator with Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Africa. In 2020, Friends of the Earth USA released an updated list of 80 grocery retailers, seafood companies, food service companies and restaurants with more than 18,000 locations nationwide who said they would not sell genetically modified salmon, demonstrating a widespread rejection of the first market. commercial offers of the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the United States

Groups such as HOMEF and ERA/FoEN, GM Free Nigeria who are concerned about genetically modified organisms in the country have consistently complained about the weak biosafety regulatory framework in the country. They also called for increased transparency, accountability and public engagement before considering approving new life forms in our environment and biodiversity.

Reacting to the news of genetically enhanced tilapia on its way to Nigeria, Health of Mother Earth Foundation Director Nnimmo Bassey warned that “the Nigerian environment is already plagued by many genetically modified crops and products whose farmers and consumers are unaware. of. We are concerned that the introduction of genetically enhanced tilapia is a step towards introducing genetically modified fish into the country. Moreover, we do not know that there was a consultation with the majority of fishermen and consumers in the country before the signing of the so-called inclusive agreement which opened the door to this species of tilapia.

“As stakeholders concerned with the well-being of our aquatic ecosystems, we consider that the so-called donation of genetically enhanced tilapia can have adverse effects on our food system and the livelihoods of millions of fishers and transformers. We also call on our government to halt approvals of genetically modified fish, animals or plants in Nigeria until the biosafety regulatory system is strengthened and tightened. We also demand that, in all cases, public participation is mandatory to ensure transparency and that the precautionary principle is strictly respected in all cases.

“FishNet Alliance calls on the Nigerian government to provide resources to public fisheries and oceanographic institutions for the sound management of our aquatic ecosystems and resources rather than opening doors to new varieties, under the guise of philanthropy which could negatively affect our food systems We hope that genetically enhanced tilapia will not be used as an opening to sneak into our environment and our dining tables.

The original article can be found here

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