Dead tilapia: Scientists charge Biosafety Authority to live up to mandate

Ghana Agriculture News-Alliance for Science Ghana; a consortium of Ghanaian Scientists, farmers and Communications persons are charging the National Biosafety Authority to live up to its mandate.

They are also refuting assertions that dead tilapia discovered in Ghana are Genetically Modified.

“It has come to our attention reports in some sections of the media that the recent dead tilapia fishes discovered at Asutsuare are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Nothing can be further from the truth. This is palpable misrepresentation of facts.”

They say they are sad at efforts aimed at demonising the GMO technology, despite the evidence that it has revolutionarised agricultural production in different parts of the world.

Fujian farm, a Chinese-owned aquaculture business in Asutsuare has reported an incident of mass deaths on its fish farms which has alarmed everybody. 18000 tonnes of dead fishes, precisely tilapia, have since been destroyed at the company’s site. The Food and Drugs Authority, Fisheries Commission and other institutions have moved in, taken samples and are investigating the cause of deaths.

But some media reports have claimed the dead fishes could be GMO tilapia varieties which couldn’t survive the local environment, leading to the deaths.

“This can’t be true. The term, GMO is used to refer to organisms that have had their genetic makeup altered through the introduction of specific beneficial traits. It’s not every fast growing or high yielding plant or animal which is a GMO. In fact, there are GMO varieties that have been engineered with other traits including higher nutritional value and are not necessarily higher yielding. So let’s not confuse it.”

The scientists in a press statement insist that there are currently no commercialised genetically modified tilapia on the market anywhere in the world for some to have been introduced on fish farms in Ghana.

“In fact, the only commercially available GMO fish in the world is AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon which was released onto the market in Canada last year. This fish is twice as productive as their conventional counterparts but mass deaths is not one of their traits.”

They say GMO fishes don’t die in mass numbers just because they have been genetically modified adding that till date, there has not been any reported incidents of negative health implication on humans from the consumption of these GMO fishes in Canada because GMOs don’t kill nor cause diseases. “GMOs are regular products with beneficial traits that help make agriculture more productive and less tedious and helps ensure there is food for all”.

They assure Ghanaians that Ghana has a robust system for the regulation of GMO products which was set out back in 2011 with the passage of the National Biosafety Act 2011 and the subsequent establishment of the National Biosafety Authority.

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