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Conservation of farm animal genetic resources – a global view

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2018

R.A. Cardellino
Affiliation:
Animal Production and Health Division, FAO, 00100 Rome, Italy
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Abstract

Farm animal genetic resources face a double challenge. On the one hand the demand for animal products is increasing in developing countries. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that demand for meat will double by 2030 (2000 basis) and demand for milk will more than double in this 30-year period. On the other hand, animal genetic resources are disappearing rapidly worldwide. Over the past 15 years, 300 out of 6000 breeds identified by FAO have become extinct, and 1 to 2 breeds disappear every week. FAO has been requested by its member countries to develop and implement a global strategy for the management of farm animal genetic resources. It is important to conserve local breeds because many of them utilise lower quality feed, are more resilient to climatic stress, are more resistant to local parasites and diseases, and represent a unique source of genes for improving health and performance traits of industrial breeds. It is important also to develop and utilise local breeds that are genetically adapted to their environments. Genotype x environment interactions are important especially where extreme environments are involved. Most of these production environments are harsh, with very limited natural and managerial inputs, and they are not limited to developing countries. Animals genetically adapted to these conditions will be more productive at lower costs. They will support food, agriculture and cultural diversity, and will be effective in achieving local food security objectives. In many countries local communities depend on these adapted genetic resources. Their disappearance or drastic modification, for example by crossbreeding, absorption or replacement by exotic breeds, will have tremendous impacts on these human populations. Most breeds at risk are not supported by any established conservation activity or related policy, and breed extinction rates are increasing.

Type
Section 1: Policy issues
Copyright
Copyright © British Society of Animal Science 2004

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