The global industrialization of agriculture and the enormous pressure to streamline animal breeding and production have led to the rapid erosion of animal genetic diversity. Recognizing this threat, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation recently released the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources and the Interlaken Declaration (International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Interlaken, Switzerland, 3–7 September 2007). The premise of the document is that the diversity of animal genetic resources is essential to satisfy basic human needs for food and a secure livelihood.
Genetic diversity defines not only the animal breeds’ production and functional traits, but also their abilities to adapt to different environments, including food and water availability, climate changes, pests and diseases, and changing socio-economic conditions. The preservation of animal genetic diversity, represented by more than 10,000 years of animal domestication, will improve the competitiveness of the livestock industries to respond to environmental challenges as well as shifting consumer demands, and food security issues. Many OECD member countries have already initiated programs to protect the genetic diversity of their livestock and poultry and to characterize and protect the genetic diversity of their livestock and poultry breeds.
This workshop was sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, whose financial support made it possible for most of the invited speakers to participate in the Conference. During this workshop, participants had the opportunity to share and gather information from different strategies to protect animal genetic resources from around the world. The overall goal was to enhance national and international development and collaboration on programs designed to protect animal genetic resources, and ultimately ensure diversity and the sustainability of farm animals worldwide.
This workshop was organized by research scientists from the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources program and the University of Saskatchewan. But the quality of this document would not have been possible without the active participation of scientists and managers of conservation program from around the world. Together, we hope this document can help governments, industries and other players to actively protect the genetic diversity of our animal resources.
Carl Lessard, PhD
Research Scientist of the Canadian Animal Genetic Resource program