This paper addresses major issues and challenges for Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) and the livestock sector, as well as options for further development of policies or regulatory approaches. Three main areas were identified, i) how we can halt the further erosion of genetic diversity and promote sustainable breeding and use, ii) whether there is a need to regulate the exchange of genetic material and iii) how to balance different systems of rights (e.g. sovereign rights of nations, intellectual property rights, communal rights or rights of livestock keepers).
To halt further erosion, complementary ex-situ and in-situ conservation approaches are needed and breeding and marketing of local breeds should be strengthened. Secondly, recognizing the importance of the exchange of AnGR, broad access and responsible and equitable exchange mechanisms should be further promoted. Thirdly, regarding intellectual property rights, there is a need to adapt the application of the patent system to the special circumstances inherent in animal breeding. Moreover, possible sui generis systems should be further explored in order to better balance different rights systems.
Rather than developing a new or adapted internationally legally binding framework, the intergovernmental process under FAO may instead wish to focus, in the first instance, on the development of voluntary instruments to strengthen national policies and the implementation of action at national levels.
Debates and developments related to international agreements in the crop sector have also tended to frame the debate for AnGR. However, before launching into a discussion on whether or not an ‘FAO Animal Treaty’ would be needed, one should first of all clarify the problems to be dealt with and regulated via an international regime.