FAO Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources

Newsletter No. 95- Item 2

In January 2011 the FAO sent the WOA a questionnaire asking if the WOA had a Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources and if so for information on that plan. The document was drawn up in 2008 and can be viewed here.  The objective is to develop a global framework for managing animal genetic resources for food and agriculture in a sustainable manner and combating the erosion of genetic diversity in livestock species.

The agricultural revolution following World War 2 has witnessed amazing developments in genetic performance of the mainstream meat producing species.   One of the drivers of this revolution has been identification of the high performing genetic breeds and improving those breeds that were specialist to the needs of the market they are servicing.

This has resulted in many breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry no longer commercially viable in today’s market place.   This genetic pool is under threat of extinction as they are no longer viable to farm on a commercial basis and no longer available in the wild.  The compartive photos below illustrate the amazing changes in just one commercial breed from 1959 to 2006.

Comparative prize winning Aberdeen Angus bulls
[source: http://www.aberdeen-angus.co.uk/about/history/]

comparative angus bulls over the years

Ostrich has different challenges.  The majority of domesticated ostrich remain in South Africa where their genetic pool is diversified from local wild stock.  Over the years the genetic development has been limited, with the most notable genetic introductions made when birds from Timbuktu were introduced to improve feather quality.   Currently there are genetic strains in Northern Africa either under pressure or extinct – not from agriculture but as a result of conflict.

The pressures on the genetic pool of ostrich currently remain environmental rather than domestication for agriculture. As an association we have a responsibility to monitor all threats to our genetic pool and genetic diversity. However it will take successful commercialisation to fund any meaningful preservation program of our genetic pool whether from environmental or commercial threats.

One comment

  1. […] agricultural production since the start of agriculture some 10,000 years ago.   As discussed here genetic selection this way has also changed the confirmation of breeds to meet the modern market […]

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