A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published a few days ago presents a list of significant and worrying data: 17 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction.
This percentage represents a total of 1,458 breeds, including those that are already extinct. From 2005 to 2014, the percentage of breeds at risk grew by two percent. The FAO report appears to connect this fact to the existence of highly specialized factory farms in which production is dominated by a limited number of high-output breeds.
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“In the history of nature and humankind, the extinction of species and breeds has always been normal”, comments Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. “But in natural history, as some species and breeds disappeared, so others replaced them naturally. The substantial difference today is that humankind has accelerated the phenomenon. Only now are we beginning to grasp the genetic, economic and, above all, cultural costs of the strain. The cultural aspect is usually overlooked, so it’s necessary to stress just how important it really is: if we lose a breed, with it we lose a cultural bond with our history and our way of life.”
José Graziano da Silva, Director General of FAO, in his foreword to the report, stresses how domesticated animals contribute directly to the livelihood of millions of people, including an estimated 70 percent of the world’s rural poor. This is why the world’s livestock biodiversity is vitally important in the fields of agriculture, rural development and food and nutrition security.
Some examples of Slow Food Presidia set up to safeguard animal breeds:
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