Breed Will Tell

04 Sep 2007

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has met with NGOs, farmers, and experts from over 120 countries in Switzerland to discuss the urgency with which biodiversity must be protected.

As rare breeds are lost, the level of diverse genetic material available to help the species fight disease and climate change is diminishing. The NGO SWISSAID remarks that while this issue affects the whole world, it is more directly felt by the 830 million herders, farmers, and breeders for whom the animals are a means of survival.

Scientists already know that 11 percent of animal breeds have become extinct, but the FAO reports that around 16 percent of the 7,600 breeds of pigs, cattle, chickens, ducks, and other farm species are in danger of the same fate. An estimated two species die out weekly, and these numbers do not include the species that have not yet been studied, which researchers assume to be under just as great a threat.

A UN report mentions that developed countries have begun to take the appropriate steps to protect the endangered species, but poorer countries are still under pressure to develop agriculturally. Industrial farmers and many from Asia and Africa often choose non-native breeds that are known to produce more meat or milk. Consequently, local varieties that are more resistant to the local environment are drastically decreasing in population.
Different plans have been put forward to protect biodiversity. While some propose establishing gene banks, others argue that it is more important to protect the living species now than freeze their embryos and semen.

International Herald Tribune

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