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Towards the twenty-first century - the challenges facing livestock production

B.S. Hursey

Senior Officer (Insect-borne diseases)
World Animal Review
FAO Animal Production and Health Division

Vers le xxie siècle: les défis que doit relever la production animale

Le présent numéro de la Revue mondiale de zootechnie présente une sélection d'articles qui illustrent la diversité des activités de la recherche-développement en matière de zootechnie pour la promotion et l'amélioration de l'agriculture animale. Le rythme de croissance de la population humaine, associé au développement économique et urbain, a une incidence considérable sur la production animale en raison, notamment, de la demande croissante de protéines d'origine animale. L'augmentation de la demande de viande, d'œufs et de produits laitiers de bonne qualité et à des prix raisonnables a encouragé l'intensification et l'industrialisation rapide de la production animale, ce qui a eu des incidences économiques, sociales et écologiques à l'échelle mondiale. La FAO, dans le cadre du mandat révisé dont elle est investie afin d'agir de manière décisive pour soulager la faim et réaliser l'objectif de «la nourriture pour tous» d'ici à l'an 2010, a reconnu la nécessité d'une approche intégrée et pluridisciplinaire en matière de production agricole en mettant en place le Programme spécial pour la sécurité alimentaire. A cet effet, des structures ont été créées au sein de l'Organisation afin de réunir des spécialistes représentant toute la gamme des activités nécessaires pour réaliser le développement durable.

Hacia el siglo xxi: desafíos para la producción pecuaria

El presente número de la Revista mundial de zootecnia, presenta una selección de artículos que ilustran las diversas actividades de investigación y desarrollo pecuarios que se están llevando a cabo con el fin de promover y mejorar la zootecnia. El ritmo de crecimiento de la población humana, unido al desarrollo económico y urbano, tiene repercusiones considerables en la producción pecuaria, en particular por medio de la creciente demanda de proteínas derivadas de los animales. El aumento de la demanda de carne, huevos y productos lácteos a precios razonables y de calidad elevada ha constituido un incentivo para la intensificación e industrialización rápidas de la producción animal, acarreando así consecuencias económicas, sociales y ecológicas de dimensiones mundiales. La FAO, en su mandato revisado de influir de manera significativa en el alivio del hambre y el suministro de «alimentos para todos» para el año 2010, ha reconocido la necesidad de un enfoque multidisciplinario integrado de la producción agropecuaria por medio del Programa especial para la seguridad alimentaria, creando estructuras dentro de la Organización para reunir expertos en representación de la amplia gama de actividades que son necesarias para conseguir un desarrollo sostenible.

In this issue of World Animal Review, unlike recent preceding issues, the focus on a specific theme has been discarded in favour of presenting readers with a selection of articles which illustrate the miscellany of livestock research and development activities being undertaken in order to promote and improve animal agriculture.

The pace of human population growth coupled with economic and urban development has a considerable impact on livestock production, particularly through the growing demand for animal-derived protein. This is most evident in the Asia region where, in the last 30 years, increases in biomass holdings of poultry and pigs have risen from 4 million to 14 million tonnes and from 7 million to more than 25 million tonnes, respectively. Recent studies undertaken at FAO on global livestock geography indicate that the wetter areas of China now form the epicentre of monogastric animals, with 9 tonnes of liveweight and an average of 260 people per square kilometre. The burgeoning demand for reasonably priced and high-quality meat, eggs and dairy products has created the incentive for the rapid intensification and industrialization of animal production, thus representing economic, social and environmental implications of global dimensions.
This evolution presents all those involved in agricultural production, processing and marketing with a plethora of interlinked problems and challenges of far-ranging significance. The industrialization of farming practices not only introduces direct concerns such as the growing conflict between the production of food and feed as well as environmental worries about waste disposal, but it also impacts on traditional smallholders who may no longer be competitive and may be forced into relinquishing their land. Other changes may be expected in animal biodiversity and in the pattern and epidemiology of zoonotic and animal diseases. The magnitude of these consequences is such that they can no longer be viewed solely in the context of the region in which they occur but demand global attention. The interdependency of the various components within this cycle also requires an improved definition so that predictions on future trends facilitate a better biological understanding of the possible impact of these human activities.
In today's increasingly competitive and economically driven environment, the survival of small-scale and largely self-sufficient agricultural/rural populations is becoming ever more precarious while, at the same time, greater demands are being placed on limited and finite natural resources.
If this intensification of human agricultural activity is to be sustained and even increased, it will also need mechanisms for effective coordination and collaboration at the international level. As already demonstrated by the dilemma facing the world fishing industry, the foundation for any success will lie in the availability of realistic and respected policies that are not unduly influenced by short-sighted economic interests.
FAO, in its revised mandate to make a significant impact on hunger relief and "food for all" by the year 2010, has recognized the need for an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to agricultural production through the formation of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) where structures have been created within the Organization to bring together experts representing the broad range of activities necessary to achieve sustainable development.
These changes are further reflected in recent proposals for the reorganization of the FAO Animal Production and Health Division, where there is a shift away from individual specializations towards the development of a "farming systems" approach. These changes, first announced to readers in our editorial comment in the 1995 50th anniversary issue (World Animal Review, 84/85), now have more firmly established priorities.
Three subprogrammes, which constitute the "core activities" of the division, have been created to address the major problem areas for livestock production in the intensive or peri-urban, the mixed and the pastoral or extensive farming systems. Within the peri-urban subprogramme, emphasis is placed on emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases, environmental issues as well as product handling and marketing. In the mixed farming system, attention is directed to the integration and intensification of livestock and crop production, the sustainable use of natural resources and the general improvement of animal health and husbandry practices. In the pastoral, extensive systems, priority is given to the sustainable exploitation of scarce natural resources, disease control and the improvement of production quality as opposed to just quantity.
Two additional subprogrammes address the specific issues of genetic conservation and biodiversity and the major infectious and zoonotic diseases of significant emergency and transboundary proportions affecting livestock production, human health and international trade.
In order to coordinate the above activities and to ensure a "global perspective", a sixth subprogramme has been created which aims to develop and integrate the various livestock and animal health databases and information systems that are becoming so essential to the planning process required to meet and sustain today's demands.
These changes reflect the recognition that livestock production is fast becoming the priority issue in agriculture and land use. It is placing an increasing and expanding demand on veterinarians and production specialists alike. Those in positions of national authority at the planning and policy levels will be required to adapt accordingly as the industry expands and demands that these changes be viewed in the broader context of rural development and the protection of our limited resources.
In the next few issues of World Animal Review, therefore, it is our intention to select from submitted articles those that indicate these trends at various levels, the problems being faced and the actions undertaken to address the multitude of issues at the practical level. Readers who feel they may contribute to this subject are invited to submit their articles to the Editor for consideration.

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