Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT)

Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) has been developed for nearly 30 years to have fast growth,benefiting millions across the world Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production sector in the world, providing almost half of the global fish supply. By 2030, it is estimated that aquaculture production will grow by 40% to satisfy global fish demand. Tilapia, now the second most farmed fish in the world, has played an important role in the growth of aquaculture and acheter cialis sans ordonnance will continue to in the future.

One particular strain, Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT), is providing small-scale farmers with an income and households with a sustainable source of food and nutrition. As part of a pioneering selective breeding program that began in 1988, the GIFT strain was developed to be fast growing and adaptable to a wide range of environments.

Today, GIFT is produced in at least 14 countries, helping to reduce poverty and hunger. This story traces the history of GIFT’s development across nearly three decades and five continents.

1980s: Future food security is a concern

In 1980, the global population was approximately 4.5 billion and growing (US Census 2015). There were emerging concerns about food and nutrition security with 28% of the global population undernourished (FAO 2006).

Fish was seen as key to combatting this challenge. More than 75% of the world’s fish is consumed in developing countries. Fish is a good source of zinc, iron, vitamin A and calcium that are essential for cognitive and physical development, especially in children, and are an important part of a healthy diet.

In 1980, global fish consumption reached 50 million tons, of mostly wild catch fish and less than 10% from aquaculture. Driven by urbanization and rising per capita incomes, demand for seafood was growing and projected to increase four-fold to 232 million tons by 2030.

With diminishing wild fish stocks, aquaculture was found to be the solution to meet future demand. Scientists started focusing on improving the production traits of commercially important aquatic animal species through selective breeding.


WorldFish Principal Scientist John Benzie explains how fish contributes to improving food and nutrition security across the globe.

A new research project on genetic improvement

Driven by poor productivity in tilapia farms, WorldFish conducted reviews of the world’s tilapia genetic resources from 1980 to 1987. They found that inadequate seed supply and the deteriorating performance of fish in many aquaculture systems in Asia were major concerns.

Formed in 1988 by WorldFish and its partners from the Philippines and Norway, the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia project aimed to develop a faster-growing strain of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) suitable for both small-scale and commercial aquaculture.


WorldFish Scientist Curtis Lind discusses the research that happened before the start of the GIFT project in 1988.

Tilapia: The ideal candidate for selective breeding

Tilapia’s unique characteristics make it an ideal candidate for genetic improvement through selective breeding.

It can be grown in diverse farming systems and is omnivorous, requiring minimal fish meal in its feed. It has a naturally high tolerance to variable water quality and can grow in both freshwater and marine environments. Because tilapia are hardy and have good disease resistance, they are inexpensive and easy for small-scale farmers to grow for food, nutrition and income.

WorldFish scientist Dr. Curtis Lind explains that tilapia starts breeding at four to six months, enabling genetic improvements to be made in a short time. “They’re easy to breed and grow reasonably quickly, so you can produce the next generation of offspring in a short period – less than a year.”

Tilapia: The Plain Truth

Tilapia is a nutritious, inexpensive and environmentally friendly food. View infographic.

Creating an improved strain of tilapia

WorldFish and partners created an improved strain of tilapia, called the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT), by pioneering a systematic breeding method. This was based on selective breeding programs for salmon and trout established in Norway in the 1970s.

Genetic improvement through selective breeding has been used for millennia on crops and livestock, but up until the 1980s, little had been done to utilize this process for farmed fish. “At the beginning of the breeding program, it [tilapia] was the first tropical aquaculture species to have undergone genetic improvement in this manner,” explains Curtis. “It was really quite landmark.”

Selective bree