Call for urgent action on animal genetic resources

Urgent action is needed to conserve and develop the world’s animal genetic resources in the face of climate change, emerging diseases, pressures on feed and water supplies and shifting market demands.

That’s the core conclusion of a major report, published today by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, which states that current resources are “often poorly managed and under threat”.

“Efforts to promote their sustainable use, development and conservation need to be stepped up urgently,” said FAO, adding that diverse animal genetic resources provide adaptability and resilience in the face of climate change, emerging diseases, pressures on feed and water supplies and shifting market demands.

The report, which is titled The Second Global Assessment of Animal Genetic Resources, runs to more than 600 pages, covering every aspect of both opportunity and threat in relation animal genetics.

Drawing on information provided in 129 country reports, 15 reports from international organisations, four reports from regional focal points and networks for animal genetic resources and inputs from 150 individual authors and reviewers, the FAO document makes the following recommendations:

  • Institutional frameworks for animal genetic resources management need to be strengthened, including mechanisms that allow for better communications among stakeholders and facilitate the participation of livestock keepers in the planning and implementation of policies and programmes.
  • Awareness, education, training and research need to be improved in all areas of animal genetic resources management, including in the emerging fields of access and benefit sharing, ecosystem services and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  • Breeding strategies and programmes need to be strengthened, so as to enable full advantage to be taken of available genetic diversity and ensure that livestock populations are well matched to their production environments and to societal needs.
  • Conservation programmes need to be expanded and diversified, where possible combining support for the ongoing use of breeds in their usual production environments with the maintenance of backup collections of genetic material.
  • Countries that have not yet developed a national strategy and action plan should consider doing so, as a means of translating the provisions of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources into well-targeted activities at country level. In many countries, National Focal Points for the Management of Animal Genetic Resources also need to be strengthened.
  • International cooperation in animal genetic resources management needs to be improved at both global and regional levels.

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