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Sent: 21 November 2003 08:51
Subject: 24: International collaborative efforts - MAS
This is from Daniel Gianola.
Concerning Dr. de Koning's optimism and his final statement (in Message 20, November 20):
"...Rather than a commercial national/regional framework, I remain convinced that any form of MAS for the developing world will depend on heavily sponsored international collaborative efforts".
May I ask why is it reasonable to expect that developed nations would be interested in sponsoring something like this, other than for the purpose of discovering gene products that have biomedical application, leading to patentable outputs, say (pharmacogenomics)?
Professor Daniel Gianola
Department of Animal Sciences
Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics
Department of Dairy Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
gianola (at) calshp.cals.wisc.edu
Sent: 21 November 2003 09:03
Subject: 25: Use of MAS and related technologies in livestock improvement
I am David Notter, Professor of Animal Science at Virginia Tech in the USA. My area of work is the genetic improvement of livestock and the development of breeding systems.
I would like to add a few thoughts to the discussion of use of MAS and related technologies in livestock improvement.
First, I agree with Hugh Montaldo's comments (Message 18, November 20) that ANY effective livestock improvement program will likely require an associated capacity for animal recording and use of traditional genetic improvement methods, such as Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) evaluations. Application of MAS still requires, in most cases, accurate pedigree information. Even the determination of ancestry by DNA testing requires a substantial element of animal control and regular interactions with a testing service. Further, since much of the available additive genetic variation remains in the polygenic component, long-term sustained improvement would seem to require attention to this component. And finally, successful animal improvement programs require day-to-day attention to, and understanding of, animal performance levels that can only be attained by some sort of animal recording. Experience with the implementation of genetic evaluation programs for new traits such as parasite resistance in small ruminants or ultrasonic meat yield traits suggest that much of the overall advantages of such programs comes from better understanding of what is happening in the herd or flock on both genetic and nongenetic levels. Measurement of performance confers understanding and improves management, in addition to allowing genetic improvement. It is not always clear which (better management or genetic improvement) is the most important outcome.
I would perhaps disagree with Hugh Montaldo that animal recording has to be put into place BEFORE MAS could be implemented. Perhaps MAS or related technologies are the lever we use to promote the implementation of animal recording. But I think they must at least be implemented together. MAS without recording is unlikely to be very beneficial for most traits.
I will grant that detection of quantitative trait loci (not markers, which may differ in linkage phase among families) for important traits such as disease resistance (see comments on trypanosomiasis by Dirk-Jan de Koning, Message 13, November 19) might impact populations independently of animal recording. Opportunities to screen populations for animals carrying favorable QTL for such traits might hasten development of lines that would reliably possess a subset of favorable genetic characteristics. Interest in selective elimination of genotypes that are susceptible to scrapie in sheep in Europe would be an example. But this is not MAS, and also raises important questions about the genetic diversity that might be lost in the process of fixing a subset of desirable alleles.
This brings us to Dirk-Jan de Koning's comments on how and where program using MAS might be established. I agree that substantial resources will be required to implement MAS and that nucleus populations of some sort should be the model of choice. But the history of publicly funded genetic improvement programs in the developing world is not good, as Victor Olori commented (Message 21, November 20). Some successes in publicly funded initiatives in plant breeding for developing countries through the CGIAR system can be identified, but comparable successes in animal breeding are rare. I believe the problem lies in the sustainability of large, publicly funded animal breeding projects and in their greater complexity. I could relatively easily design a project to create a productive composite breed of some species for a specific region. With adequate resources, I suspect success in developing productive, useful animals would be quite likely. At this level, Dirk-Jan's comments make great sense. But I don't know how to organize the ongoing genetic improvement over multiple generations or how to distribute and properly test the germplasm over multiple production environments. To do this properly, in my opinion, still requires animal recording to document the value of the improved type in different places and production systems. And to maintain and disseminate the genetic improvement widely, requires a system of private breeders acting initially as multipliers and eventually as independent centers of genetic improvement.
In my opinion, the most significant limitation to genetic improvement of livestock in the developing countries has been the failure to establish private breeders whose livelihood is linked to the production and marketing of genetically superior animals. Public institutions have not been shown to be adequate substitutes, since sustained funding is rarely available. And the establishment of private suppliers of improved animals also requires a commercial sector (of either small or large farms) that recognizes the value of these animals and is willing to pay a premium for genetically superior commercial stock. MAS is not particularly likely to change this picture or remove these limitations unless coupled with expanded animal recording and better documentation of benefits (which again can only be achieved by some sort of recording, even if on a limited scale). It is here that plant breeding (with more commercial marketing of seeds by private concerns at all levels of production) and animal breeding seem to diverge most in the developing world.
So, in my mind the necessity is to establish a structure for developing sustainable centers for genetic improvement of livestock, for documentation of benefits from the use of the resulting animals, and for the distribution of improved animals through private multipliers. To date, I see little likelihood that can be achieved by relying on government farms or public initiatives, except as supporting institutions (where their role can be very important). However, as such a structure evolves, MAS can be implemented as appropriate, along with other useful technologies. IF (and perhaps only if) MAS can hasten development of such structures, then it will make a substantial contribution.
David R. Notter
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0306
E-mail: drnotter (at) vt.edu
Sent: 21 November 2003 12:26
Subject: 26: Re: Use of MAS and related technologies in livestock improvement
This is from Ashok Seth, UK. After a career in the private sector (research and development of crop protection chemicals for multinational corporation) and international development (career in the World Bank as agriculture and rural development specialist) I now work as an independent consultant.
Thank you David Notter (Message 25, November 21) for your clear, logically laid out incisive observations. I totally agree with your comments. Only thing I would add is the need for a robust priority setting mechanism at the start of research programs/projects so that scarce resources (financial and human) are only allocated to issues that really matter in the context of the national agricultural economy. Research managers/administrators must insist on a greater role for social scientists in deciding priorities. Thereafter, biologists should employ tool and techniques (including MAS) that are most likely to provide cost effective results in the shortest possible time.
ARD Consultants Ltd
98 Whitedown Lane
Hampshire, UK GU34 1QR
AKSth1 (at) aol.com
Sent: 21 November 2003 14:11
Subject: 27: Re: Use of MAS and related technologies in livestock improvement
Victor Olori again.
With regards to Ashok Seth's message (No. 26, November 21) and David Notter's earlier comment (Message 25, November 21), I would like to refer to the 'DECIDE' tool that was under development by FAO. I am hoping the moderator can point us to the latest on this. Last year there was a workshop to evaluate this tool which is aimed at helping those interested in setting up a genetic improvement program especially for low input production systems in developing countries. The prototype we evaluated was very versatile and all inclusive and, if used, will allow the setting up of programs that are sustainable and hopefully successful. The good thing for me was that this decision making tool can be used by individuals as well as organisations responsible in any capacity in either formulating policy, advising government or NGOs or actually setting up the program. This tool draws the attention of such individual or individuals to all aspects (scientific, economic and social) which must be covered in order to set up a successful and sustainable program that will be readily adopted. I would like to know the state of this web based tool and how it can fit into the use of MAS as being discussed in this forum.
Dr. V.E. Olori
Irish Cattle Breeding Federation,
Shinagh House, Bandon,
Republic of Ireland.
Tel: +353 (23) 20220
Fax +353(23) 20229
E-Mail volori (at) icbf.com
[Work on this tool has been stopped due to the retirement of the Senior Officer (Breeding) in FAO's Animal Production and Health Division. The tool is approximately 40% ready but needs further work on content and user interface. A new officer will join FAO early next year and will develop the tool during 2004...Moderator].
Sent: 21 November 2003 15:30
Subject: 28: Utility of MAS in tropical trees for small-holders
Greetings from Kenya. I am Tony Simons, responsible for the conservation, characterization and improvement of tree genetic resources at our institute. The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is engaged in research for development to increase the stability, productivity and profitability of trees on small-holder farms in the tropics, and has 400 staff based in 27 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. We focus on timber, fruit, medicinal, fodder and fertilizer trees and currently undertake work on over 200 species.
Echoing the sentiments outlined earlier in the conference, I would like to hear from those engaged in MAS about their utility in tropical trees for small-holders. We have a number of problems we face including dioecy, undocumented origins, uncertainty of genetic control of various traits, need to accelerate vegetative and sexual tree improvement, less resources per species to allocate than mainstream taxa, etc.
Tony Simons, PhD
Principal Tree Scientist
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
PO Box 30677-00100
email: t.simons (at) cgiar.org
Sent: 21 November 2003 16:49
Subject: 29: Use of licensed genomic technology
I am Pablo Corva, Assistant Professor of animal breeding and genetics at the University of Mar del Plata, Argentina.
I've been following with great interest the discussion about potential application of MAS strategies in developing countries.
I would like to hear from other participants in this conference, about the use of licensed genomic technology by public institutions, especially those in developing countries.
A growing number of new polymorphisms affecting economically important traits in beef or dairy cattle are being described in the scientific literature. Soon after that, many of those new markers appear in the market with a fantasy name and protected by patent agreements. Unfortunately, that's another proof that we are most of the time "one step behind" in research and development (R&D) of genomic technology.
I wonder if we people working at the university would be allowed to use those tests in validation experiments, for example. If we target a given mutation (let's say a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)) that has been described in the literature with a given experimental protocol (maybe not the same one reported in the original paper), are we violating proprietary rights of the companies that are now marketing the test?
This is a very important issue for us, because there are more tests on the market every day. Cattlemen have heard about them and now are asking for advice on the matter.
Pablo M. Corva, PhD
Dept. Anim. Science
University of Mar del Plata
pcorva (at) balcarce.inta.gov.ar