The appropriateness, significance and application of biotechnology options in the animal agriculture of developing countries
1. The Context: Trends in Animal Agriculture in Developing Countries
Human population growth, increasing urbanisation and rising incomes are fuelling a massive increase in demand for food of animal origin (milk, meat, eggs) in developing countries. Globally, livestock production is growing faster than any other sector, and by 2020 the livestock sector is predicted to become the most important agricultural sector in terms of added value. In view of its substantial dynamics, this process has been referred to as the 'livestock revolution'. Important features of this process are:
(1) a rapid and massive increase in consumption of livestock products in developing countries with, e.g. per caput meat consumption in the developing world expected to double between 1993 and 2020,
(2) a shift of livestock production from temperate and dry areas to warmer and more humid environments,
(3) a change in livestock keeping from a family-support activity to market-oriented increasingly integrated production,
(4) increasing pressure on grazing resources,
(5) more large-scale, industrial production units located close to urban centres,
(6) decreasing importance of ruminant vis-à-vis monogastric livestock species, and
(7) a rapid rise in the use of cereal-based feeds.
Most food of animal origin consumed in developing countries is currently supplied by small-scale, often mixed crop-livestock family farms or by pastoral livestock keepers. The on-going major expansion of the demand for livestock products for food is expected to have significant technological and structural impacts on the livestock sector. The productivity of animal agriculture in developing countries will need to be substantially increased in order to satisfy increasing consumer demand, to more efficiently utilise scarce resources, and to generate income for a growing agricultural population.
Agricultural biotechnology has long been a source of innovation in production and processing, profoundly impacting the sector. Rapid advances in molecular biology and further developments in reproductive biology provide new powerful tools for further innovation. Increasingly, the advanced molecular biotechnology research and development (R&D) activities are conducted by large corporations and are designed to meet the requirements of developed country markets rather than the conditions of small-scale farmers in tropical regions of the world. Whilst the developing countries accommodate an increasing majority of the world's people, farmers and animals, there is a risk that biotechnology R&D may by-pass their requirements.
In this e-mail conference it is suggested to discuss biotechnologies that are either currently applied or are likely to come on stream for use in animal agriculture. The main theme of the conference is the question as to how relevant and appropriate these technologies are to meet the necessary enhancement of animal production and health in developing countries, and which factors determine their adoption or lack thereof.
The question needs to be addressed why exactly this potential is so under-utilised in developing countries. To what extent is the technology transfer, in adaptation and adoption, affected by, e.g.:
- Lack of clear livestock development policy conducive to the introduction of new proven technology;
- Lack of necessary technology adaptation to suit local/regional conditions;
- Insufficient information flow from and to decision makers;
- Accessibility of technologies as determined by price, intellectual property rights, the presence or absence of support or backstopping after their introduction;
- Insufficient understanding of the decision process of the livestock owner/producer with regard to investment in animal production and health;
- Weak expression of technology demand;
- Public acceptance or rejection of biotechnology and ethical questions.