GMOs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What are GMOs? (Genetically Modified Organisms)

GMOs are organisms whose genetic structure have been altered using modern biotechnology; simply put, these are plants or animals which have one or more genes added, removed or modified, you remember that high school biology story bout genes right? I know I don’t, so let’s do a recap.

Genes are basically what makes us who we are, they are responsible for every physical characteristic that we exhibit. Genes control height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, hair density, Can you roll your tongue? Some can and others can’t-genes are responsible for that too!

All plants and animals (humans too) have genes unique to their species. GMOs are created by taking genes from one specie and placing it in another so that the new specie produced can exhibit some of the characters of the other species.

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The good

The main advantage of GMOs is the ability to combine different characteristics from different species to produce a new plant or animal with both e.g. a specie of tomato may produce high yields but may be susceptible to pests and diseases, a pest and disease resistant gene from another plant is infused into this, so that a new organism that is both high yielding and disease resistant is produced. Sounds good right?

Common uses of GMOs in agriculture include: improved yield, resistance to diseases, reduction of spoilage, improvement of nutrient profile of crops, resistance to herbicides and certain environmental conditions, preservation of endangered species, production of pharmaceuticals (e.g. gene therapy and vaccines against the Ebola virus) and bio-fuels.

The bad

When a foreign particle gets into the human body system, our body tries to get rid of it. The liver produces toxins (poisons) that can kill or breakdown whatever the foreign particle is so it becomes harmless, these toxins sometimes induce vomiting, stooling, high body temperature (to kill the particle) or the toxins may work ‘quietly’ without producing any symptoms from the body. The same thing happens in plants, these new genes are strangers to the functioning system of the plants and so the plants also produce toxins to try and destroy these genes, unfortunately genes cannot be killed or destroyed so these toxins tend to accumulate in the plant. When these plants are consumed, the modified genes and toxins can enter into the body of humans and are known to cause a variety of reactions, from simple allergies to cancer.

The production of chemical resistant varieties increasingly affects the biodiversity of the ecosystem, as the genes in these varieties are sometimes toxic to beneficial insects especially pollinators such as bees and butterflies, continuous cultivation of these varieties in an area may see the complete extinction of these agents of pollination, thereby causing unimaginable harm to other crops that depend on them for pollination (reproduction).

Herbicide resistant varieties may become cross pollinated with weeds which promotes the growth and existence of ‘super weeds’ which become resistant to regular herbicides and special herbicides are produced for these weeds, these special herbicide contain untold levels of harmful chemicals that are released into the atmosphere.

GMOs harm the soil in two ways, firstly they can only be produced as monocrops, mono-cropping constantly mines the soil of its nutrients without and organic form of replacement, hence the need to often over apply inorganic or mineral fertilizers which are not very healthy for the soil (more on this later)

Secondly, toxins and strains produced by GMOs have been found to remain in the soil for up to 10 years, this implies that whatever crop is cultivated on that land within that period (GMO or not) will take up these strains and toxins and when these are consumed may produce the same effects as the GMOs.

The ugly

In April 2015, the former president of Nigeria signed into law the national bio-safety agency bill that allows for the production and importation of GMOs into the country. However, on the assumption of office of the new minister of agriculture, investigations revealed that claims made by a Kenyan Harvard professor who has been in the forefront promoting GMOs (that lead to the bill passage were inaccurate) as stated here.

Sadly, on the 20th of June 2016, the minister of environment released a press statement approving the proposal of one Monsanto agriculture Nigeria Ltd (looks like a Chinese company to me, find them here) seeking for the commercial release and placement in the environment of a GMO cotton (BT cotton) which is insect resistant. According to this article, a similar application was submitted by the same company to Malawi in 2014 for the commercial release of BT cotton, but the Malawian national bio-safety regulatory committee recommended its nullification on the bases that claims of economic gains were false, issues of secondary pests, environmental risks were not addressed.

Why does the Nigerian Government continually fail to carry out adequate research?

Phewww! That was one long post, and I hope it was beneficial. what are your thought on GMOs in Nigeria? As always, I love to hear from you in the comments

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My Catfish Production; Bad Investments Happen

In July 2016, I decided to start the production of catfish. I discussed the first few weeks of the project here, if you read that post, you would know the project pretty much started on a bad foot and now from the title of this post, you can also tell it ended on the same bad foot. Six months later with all of my university savings spent, I decided I could no longer continue feed them 1,500 fishes, it was time to sell. The fishes weighed an average of 0.6 kg as opposed to an expected 1.2 kg with the big ones weighing about 0.8 kg and the small ones weighing around 0.2 kg

I visited the most popular fish market in this town and informed some of the middle men (see my post about middle men here), they followed me to my farm, took a look at the fishes and we negotiated and settled at a price of ₦600 per kilo (I had previous offers of ₦300 and ₦520 per kilo from other middle men which I declined)

After harvesting, the total weight amounted to 330 kg of live weight fishes. Two months ago I smoked 50 kg of the small-sized fishes using my local charcoal oven, which I packaged and sold for 500 per 4-5 pieces making a total of ₦15,000 (300 per kilo). I had also sold 25 kg of the really big sizes for₦ 800 per kilo.

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After reconciling my accounts I made a loss in the upwards of ₦50,000, but no I do not feel discouraged, yes I have made arrangements to purchase another batch of fingerlings, because I have only learnt a few more ways of not raising catfish. I would discuss the possible causes of the poor performance, my mistakes as well as my lessons in my next post.

So bad investments do happen, this does not mean you should not try. Every business venture is a risk, things could go wrong or right, either way, pick only your lessons and move forward without looking back, in the words of Malcom Forbes, failure is SUCCESS if we LEARN from it.

#NoRegretsOnlyLessonsLearned.

Abisola Oladele

Hello 2017, Count Your Blessings!

Happy New Year people! Thank you for sticking with me through 2016, I am indeed privileged to be part of your lives and to have you as part of mine.

In my last post here I told you guys how my feeling low on ‘blog-motivation’ was the reason for my absence from the blog for a while and how I was back. Sadly I fell right back into that hole after that post. I felt the blog posts weren’t getting as many views as I wanted and my efforts were not paying off. I thought who would even want to visit a blog about agriculture? Despite my many whatsapp broadcasts. Then I remembered why I started in the first place; to explore my love for writing and document my experiences, not for views and/or blog traffic.

But imagine my shock today when I checked the blog stats for the year 2016 (may 2nd to January 2nd) and I saw this, oh how I was wrong!

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Exactly eight months ago today, I wrote this article for another blog, and It was rejected so I said to myself why don’t I just start my own blog? And in eight months and 13 posts, I have been able to reach 297 people, with 532 views in 12 countries. I am certain I do not have half as many friends in real life (being the introvert that I am) and so I am super grateful to each of you who take time out of your day to see what this shy girl behind a laptop has to say, I’m sorry (again) that I took this relationship for granted. I have indeed learnt to count my 297 people blessings.

I see 2017 as another chance, another chance to make right things we did wrong in the last year, those goals we didn’t achieve, the relationships we took for granted (talking to me here), the ideas we failed to follow up on (me again), the resolutions we didn’t keep (still me) and in general, any area we feel like we fell short in the last year.

So here is to another chance to do better, be a better blogger and an even better friend. Cheers to an amazing 2017.

Abisola Oladele

The End of My Long Break

Hello everyone,

i would love to give a long and important explanation for my absence, but the truth is, it does not exist. I can only say i have been lazy, and running a little low on ‘blog-motivation’ and i needed to give myself some time. Thank God i am back with a lot of things lined up for the blog,and i am super duper exicted.

First, i would be starting a new agribusiness series, where i’ll provide step by step procudures as well as budgets on as many agricultural buisnesses as i can.

A new section of the blog i termed ‘farm inspiration’ would be starting also, where i’ll be interviewing anyone and everyone who has a successful agricultural business that Is willing to grant me an interview.

I would keep you guys updated with what ever project i start and complete, as long as my clients are willing to let me put their stuff up here.

And finally, we’ll be moving soon! Working on getting my website up and moving the blog over there.

So pls forgive me for my absence and stay tuned to the blog for all of these and more.

P.S If you have a buisness you would like me to discuss about, or you are interested in granting an interview for a farm feature please send a mail to bizzy.ao@gmail.com

P.P.S Thank you to everyone that called or sent messages to ask about the blog, you guys rock!

Abisola oladele.

Analyzing the Commercial Poultry Feed Market part 3 (the results)

Before I get into today’s post, I would like to explain some of the steps I took in presenting the results. if you missed part one and two, find them here and here

  1. Significant differences: this is an important term in science experiments, especially used when comparing the effects of more than one factor (e.g food, specie, fertilizer) on a plant or animal. Simply put, calculating for significant difference at a certain level, say 95% gives us an assurance that the said factor has an effect on the plant or animal, and if the experiment is repeated a 100 times, we are likely to get the similar result at least 95 times. A few statistical methods are used to calculate this, but I wouldn’t bore you with those, however if you would like to see the calculations, please let me know in the comments.
  2. LSD mean differentiation: after significant difference has been established, mean differentiation is done to further determine which feed type actually performs better or which of them are same even if the figures are slightly different. The means are labelled a,b,c in decreasing order. Means with the same letter are not significantly different. This cannot be done if there is no significant difference in the means

Now let’s get into business

Feed consumption (kg)

 

Feed type

 

1

weeks

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

animal care 100 150 250 350 525 525
Breedwell 100 200 300 400 525 525
hybrid 100 200 275 350 525 525

 

Total cost

 

item Animal care Breedwell hybrid
Day old chicks 110,000 110,000 110,000
Drugs(vitalyte and neoceryl) 17,933 17,933 17,933
Starter 104,400 113,889 107.300
Finisher 143,000 158,200 139,150
Salaries 18,000 18,000 18,000
Total 393,333 418,022 392,383

Although hybrid birds consumed more feeds than animal care, they cost a little less because their feeds are cheaper the animal care feeds. Breedwell birds consumed more and their feeds are way more expensive than the others

Effect of feed on weight:

Due to s unforeseen circumstances, we could not weigh the birds until they were about 11 days old, that was on a Tuesday( a week and 4 days), the birds were typically in their second week, so we weighed every Tuesday after that. 15 birds were weighed and the average weight was calculated

Feed type  

2

Average

3

weight

4

 

5

 

6

Animal care 0.232c 0.51c 0.90b 1.32 1.60
Breed well 0.336a 0.69a 0.96a 1.29 1.58
Hybrid 0.294b 0.60b 0.86b 1.26 1.60

Breed well performed really well in the first 4 weeks, while animal care lagged behind. However at the end of 6 weeks, there was no significant difference between the feed types.

Mortality

Feed type No of birds that died Mortality rate(%)
Animal care 13 2.6
Breed well 14 2.8
hybrid 14 2.8

p.s my fishes enjoyed eating all of these dead birds

Palatability tests

I prepared 2 birds from each pen, using the same method and amount of ingredients(I completely forgot to take pictures) my family members and I ate them and we realized a few things

  • Breed well has low-fat and more meat plus it tasted really really good.
  • Animal care birds had really strong bones. we couldn’t even break them with our teeth. The fat content was okay but it didn’t taste as good as the breed well.
  • Hybrid birds had higher fat content, and let’s say they tasted ok.

CONCLUSION

I think each feed type has areas in which they outdid the others and it is difficult to say one of them is better than the other, however here are my observations

  • If you want big and birds, any of the feed types can provide that.
  • If you are aiming to reduce cost, hybrid feed is your guy as the feeds are cheaper, while animal care consumes less feed.
  • For healthy and strong birds, animal care does the job
  • And in terms of palatability (my favourite) breed well delivers.

so what do you guys think? lemme know in the comments!

Abisola  Oladele

Analysing the Commercial Poultry Feed Market part 2 (The Procedure)

Hi guys,

if you missed the part one of this post, you can find it here. the project has been completed, and I would like to discuss the procedure.

seven weeks ago, i placed an order for 1,500 day old chicks from Zartech ltd, via thier Abuja (wuse 2) office. Few days before the birds arrived I did a survey of the poultry feeds that were readily available around my farm, I came up with these 3;

Animal care: the complete broiler ration consists of a pre starter to be fed for the first two weeks, starter for another two weeks and the finisher till slaughter.at the time of this project, the pre starter was unavailable. most distributors complained of farmers not buying them and most times they had to be returned to the company.

Hybrid feed: the complete ration consists of broiler super starter and finisher

Breedwell feed: this is a new kid on the block. it has two types, the pellets and the mash. each type has a super starter to be fed from 0-14 days, starter 15-28 days and finisher 28 days to slaughter. the feed is produced in Ibadan and i am made to believe they have distributors in all major cities of the country.

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A cross section of the feeds.

upon arrival of the birds, the brooding pen was partitioned into 3 equal compartments. 507 day old chicks were counted into each compartment.each feed was randomly assigned to a compartment. Some precautionary measures were put in place to avoid transfer of pathogens and/or diseases from one compartment to another they include;

  • using a different footwear for each compartment
  • providing feed and water to compartments one at a time i.e finishing with one before moving to another
  • washing drinkers and feeders for each compartment individually, to ensure they do not get mixed up.

15 random birds were picked from each compartment and marked with a marker. these birds were weighed weekly and remarked for 6 weeks

DSC_0362
a cross section of the compartments

after about 10 days, the birds outgrew the compartments and were moved to individual pens.Vaccines and drugs were administered based on this chart.

DRUG AND VACCINE SCHEDULE FOR BROILERS

DAY DRUG/VACCINE
1 Glucose in water for 1 hour upon arrival

Neoceryl and vitalyte for 3 days

7 1st Gumboro vaccine
14 1st Lasota vaccine
21 2nd Gumboro vaccine
28 2nd Lasota vaccine

N.B this is a personal schedule and there are variations based on the farmer’s preference

At four weeks, the birds were slowly transitioned to finisher ration by mixing starter and finisher for 3 days while slowly increasing the amount of finisher feed in the mix.

weekly feed consumption was also recorded. the birds were fed adlibitum(i.e they had access to the feed 24 hours a day)  for the first 4 weeks, and then feeding was regulated to morning and evening up until slaughter. water on the other hand was given adlibitum from day old up until slaughter.

these are the steps in the procedure i feel are really important, but if there is anything you feel is important and I missed, please let me know in the comments.

In subsequent posts, I will be discussing the results, my observations and recommendations. stay tuned.

Abisola Oladele

The concept of farming to a mordern day Nigerian

A few days ago, my cousins were playing a certain career game where you pick a random number and whatever job is attached to it becomes yours, soon I heard them arguing,and they came up to me and asked “aunty is farming a good job or a bad job?”the question had me like;

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Even though I went on to educate them on how much of an awesome job farming is, based on  this post, this just brings to mind the way the society classifies farming, none of those kids were above the age of twelve and they didn’t ask me the same question about being a president, doctor or an engineer. this concept is extended to nearly every Nigerian. At such tender ages, these ideas are already being instilled into them both at home and at schools.

A while back, I visited a friend, we got talking and the following conversation ensued  Friend: why would you go to school to study plants and animals? instead of you to study human beings.”                                                                                                                                                      Me: do you eat human beings?                                                                                                                   why is there such low thinking of farmers in our society? how come the one thing that sustains life is constantly looked down upon? i  could go on with stories of the experiences I’ve had with the tags associated that are with agriculture, but it wouldn’t do much to address the problem, but each of us has a sphere of contact be it our siblings, extended family members or friends or even our kids or those we teach at school, let these people know how much you enjoy practising agriculture and how indispensable the practice of agriculture is to us. If you have kids, you could start a small garden within your compound, let your kids work on it with you, this would go a long way to dispel some of those ideas that fly around.

What are the experiences you’ve had based on the tags associated with agiculture? and in what ways have you been able to correct these ideas? as always, I love to hear from you.          Abisola Oladele.