Scientists Address Need for Protecting Genetic Diversity of Food Animal Livestock in New Paper

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Livestock and poultry breeds provide one-third of the world’s protein supply and are vital to brain development in infants. However, the selection of specific breeds for their desired traits in food production and consumption is contributing to a loss in genetic diversity of livestock and poultry. A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology addresses the associated risks with the loss of genetic diversity in livestock and poultry, as well as what should be done to protect remaining breeds.

Issue Paper 64 Cover
"Up to 25 percent of global livestock breeds are either at risk of being lost, or have already been lost."

The genetic diversity of livestock and poultry is dwindling, leaving one-third of the world’s protein supply at risk to events such as weather extremes and disease outbreaks.

A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology addresses the associated risks with reduced access to genetic traits, as well as what should be done to protect remaining breeds. According to the paper, “up to 25 percent of global livestock breeds are either at risk of being lost, or have already been lost.”

Current conservation practices such as cryopreservation and germplasm repositories are already in use to protect the genes of some animal livestock breeds, but the authors of the CAST paper argue more must be done to prepare for unpredictable future events. They include five recommendations that build on current conservation practices.

“By losing breeds we make finding potential solutions to future production demands much more difficult, and recent history indicates that predicting future demand is problematic,” the authors write. “Conserving breeds saves these options and keeping them in the agricultural landscape is a reminder that these options exist.”

The paper, Protecting Food Animal Gene Pools for Future Generations—A paper in the series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050, is available for free download on CAST’s website.

Download the full paper here.
Download the Ag quickCAST here.

Task Force Authors
Dr. Julie Long, Chair, Animal Biosciences & Biotechnology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service
Dr. Harvey Blackburn, National Animal Germplasm Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service
Dr. Alison Martin, The Livestock Conservancy
Dr. Robert L. Taylor, Jr., Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, West Virginia University
Dr. Fred Silversides
Dr. Curtis R. Youngs, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University

Contact Information
Dr. Julie Long
Animal Biosciences & Biotechnology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service
julie.long@ars.usda.gov

Kent Schescke
CAST Executive Vice President
(515) 292-2125
kschescke@cast-science.org

About CAST
CAST is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies, and nonprofit organizations. Through its network of experts, CAST assembles, interprets, and communicates credible, balanced, science-based information to policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.
http://www.cast-science.org

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