Conserving Genetic Resources

GLOBE - In the Colombian Andes, the Blanco Orejinegro cattle breed, known for its longevity, tolerance to high altitudes and resistance to parasites, is under threat; only 260 animals of this breed remain.
calendar icon 23 August 2007
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Time may also be running out for the fat-tailed Namaqua Africander sheep of South Africa, a breed highly adapted to harsh, arid desert environments. Only one flock of 400 animals remains.

Equally grim is the outlook for the Yakut cattle of Siberia. These highly adapted animals can tolerate sub-zero temperatures and poor feeding, and exhibit resistance to tuberculosis, leucosis and brucellosis, problem diseases for cattle in the region. Yet just 900 animals are left.

One livestock breed a month has become extinct over the past seven years - that means its genetic characteristics have been lost forever. Around 20 percent of the world's breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry are at risk of extinction, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The report, the "State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources," is the first global overview of livestock biodiversity and of the capacity of countries to manage their animal genetic resources.

Chávez's power grabStacking the electoral deckRoger Cohen: The regal republic changes placesStrenuous efforts to understand and protect the world's animal genetic resources for food and agriculture are urgently needed. Many breeds at risk of extinction have unique characteristics, such as disease resistance or tolerance to climatic strains, which future generations may need to draw on to cope with climate change, emerging animal diseases and rising demand for specific livestock products.

Wise management of agricultural biodiversity is becoming an ever greater challenge. The livestock sector in particular is undergoing rapid changes as large-scale intensive production expands in response to surging demand for meat, milk and eggs. This has led to heavy reliance on a very narrow range of high-output breeds, frequently resulting in the crowding out of local animals.

In the next 40 years, the world's population will rise from 6.2 billion to 9 billion, with all this growth occurring in developing countries. More people will require more meat, milk, eggs and other livestock products. A wide portfolio of animal genetic resources is crucial to adapting and developing the world's agricultural production systems and increasing the resilience of our food supply.

Source: HeraldTribune
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