Adoption and farm-level impact of genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) in the Philippines

Over the last four decades, the aquaculture sector especially in developing countries has experienced dramatic growth. The increase in aquaculture production is a combination of area expansion and technological change (enhanced strains, input of feed and fertilizer, and improved management). One example of such technological change is the selective breeding efforts on tilapia that were initiated in 1988 by the WorldFish Center (then ICLARM) together with (inter-)national partners. The outcome of the selective breeding effort was a tilapia strain called ”GIFT” (genetically improved farmed tilapia) which was first made available in 1993 and which showed significantly higher growth rates in on-farm trials. The strain was first adopted in the Philippines but has since been disseminated in 11 Asian countries. Ex-ante studies had shown the potential of the GIFT strain and concluded that substantial impact from GIFT and GIFT-derived strains can be expected. Our study is an ex-post assessment of the farm-level impact of GIFT and the way the technology has been disseminated and taken up. The study is based on a survey of 780 tilapia producers conducted in 2006/2007 in three different regions in Luzon, the Philippines. We analyze adoption rates of the GIFT strain and compare the performance of GIFT vs. non- GIFT strains and the impact of different factors on tilapia yields. Lastly, we evaluate the profitability of the production of GIFT vs. non-GIFT strains. Our major findings are that based on farmers’ reporting the adoption of pure GIFT strains is very low (6%), while almost half of the farmers reported to use GIFTderived strains. There is uncertainty about the genetic origin of the strains in at least 27% of the cases, and even for the GIFT and GIFT-derived strains questions remain with regard to the purity of the breed. Based on farmers’ ratings and the reported production information, the GIFT and GIFT-derived strains did not perform any better compared to other strains. This is likely to be a result of the poor management of improved strains over the last 15 years rather than a shortcoming of the original GIFT technology.


Pemsl, D.E., Chen, O.L., Tongruksawatta, S., Garcia, Y., Vera-Cruz, E., Abella, T., Waibel, H. (2008)
In: Proceedings of the 14th biennial onference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economic and Trade(IIFET), Nha Trang, Vietnam, Jul 22-26 2008. [open access]