The goose is one of the most ancient of domesticated birds now bred commercially. Whereas the greatest concentration of the world's geese is to be found in Asia, there is considerable breed diversity in Europe. Geese enterprises are most successful with highly productive breeds well adapted to local conditions. Economically useful traits, such as body weight, liveability, egg production, hatchability, feather formation and ability to be fed for the production of fat livers, need to be more clearly identified. Knowledge of the genetic differences between and within breeds in reproductive or production traits and of the heritability values of these traits are essential if the artificial selection of geese is to be successful. In the commercial crossing of breeds it is customary and preferable to use dam and male strains selected for reproductive and meat traits, respectively. Implementing modern DNA techniques would facilitate the detection of quantitative trait loci (QTL) and the introduction of marker-assisted selection. Progress with and results from other avian species would help to compensate for the current lack of specific markers and other molecular tools in geese. An important feature of geese is their ability to consume green forages and other cheap components of crops and to maintain productivity on diets with low protein contents; they are also frequently able to make effective use of novel local feed resources. Geese are at present usually raised on deep litter, on free range, in cages or on slats, using short days, diminishing light intensity or fluorescent light, and over one or two cycles of lay. To improve the efficiency of production of geese their biological and economic features need to be more actively studied. There is an urgent need to integrate genetic, nutritional, reproductive and management information and approaches so that present production systems can be adjusted and the genetic potential of geese more fully realised.