U.N.: Globalization threatens livestock

Dec. 18, 2006 at 6:32 AM
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ROME, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The United Nations says around 20 percent of domestic animal breeds are at risk of extinction, with a breed lost each month, because of globalization.

The reason, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said, is livestock markets favor high-output breeds over a multiple gene pool that could be vital for future food security.

"Maintaining animal genetic diversity will allow future generations to select stocks or develop new breeds to cope with emerging issues, such as climate change, diseases and changing socio-economic factors," said the secretary of FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Jose Esquinas-Alcazar.

But, of more than 7,600 breeds in the FAO global database of farm animal genetic resources, 190 have become extinct in the past 15 years and 1,500 more are deemed at risk of extinction according to a draft report. The final version is expected in September.

Some 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have been lost over the last five years, according to the draft presented to FAO headquarters last week.

Livestock contribute to the livelihoods of one billion people worldwide, and some 70 per cent of the rural poor depend on it as an important part of their livelihoods. Globalization of livestock markets is the biggest single factor affecting its diversity, FAO said.

Traditional production systems require multi-purpose animals, which provide a range of goods and services. Modern agriculture has developed specialized breeds, optimizing specific production traits, and just 14 of the more than 30 domesticated mammalian and bird species provide 90 percent of human food supply from animals.

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