The world’s livestock production had become dangerously over-reliant on just a few high-yielding breeds, causing the loss of many hardier breeds more suited to poor countries, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported The Australian (5/9/2007, p. 32). One breed goes extinct every month: In its first survey of the world’s animal genetic resources, the FAO said 20 per cent of the more than 7600 breeds of farm animals and poultry it had identified were at risk of extinction. Almost one breed had been lost every month over the past six years.
Value revealed too late: Carlos Sere, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, a publicly funded Nairobi-based research network, called for the rapid establishment of gene banks, especially in Africa, to conserve the sperm and eggs of animals at risk. “Valuable breeds are disappearing at an alarming rate,” he told an international technical conference on animal genetic resources in Interlaken, Switzerland. “In many cases we will not even know the true value of an existing breed until it is already gone. This is why we need to act now to conserve what’s left by putting them in gene banks.”
Locals cope better: In northern Vietnam, for instance, local breeds comprised nearly three-quarters of the sow population in 1994, but by 2000 this proportion had dropped to only a quarter. During a recent drought in Uganda, for example, farmers who kept their hardy Ankole cattle were able to walk them long distances to water sources, while those who had traded them for Holstein-Friesians lost their entire herds.
The Australian, 5/9/2007, p. 32