4.1 BACKGROUND DOCUMENT
4.2 SUMMARY DOCUMENT
THE APPROPRIATENESS, SIGNIFICANCE AND APPLICATION OF BIOTECHNOLOGY OPTIONS IN THE ANIMAL AGRICULTURE OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
4.1.1 The context: trends in animal agriculture in developing countries
Human population growth, increasing urbanization 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 ongoing 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 utilize 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 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 worlds people, farmers and animals, there is a risk that biotechnology research and development 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-utilized in developing countries. To what extent is the technology transfer, in adaptation and adoption, affected by, e.g.:
4.1.2 Biotechnologies for consideration
22.214.171.124 Reproductive biotechnologies
The main objective of biotechnologies in reproduction is to increase reproductive efficiency and rates of animal genetic improvement, thereby contributing to an increased output from the livestock sector. They also offer potential for greatly extending the multiplication and transport of genetic material and for conserving unique genetic resources in reasonably available forms for possible future use.
a) Artificial insemination (AI)
AI has already had a major impact on cattle, sheep, goat, pig, turkey and chicken improvement programmes of developed countries by accelerating breeding progress primarily through increased intensity of selection of males and through diffusion of breeding progress, initially with fresh and later, with frozen, semen, offering rapid worldwide transport of male genetic material. Globally, more than a 100 million AIs in cattle, 40 million in pigs, 3.3 million in sheep and 0.5 million in goats are performed annually. Only in very few developing countries is AI practised to a level that impacts substantially livestock production. What are the reasons that such a powerful technology has not been more widely adopted in developing countries? What is required to make the technology the same success as in developed countries?
b) Embryo transfer (ET)
ET in the mammalian species, enhanced by multiple ovulation and embryo transfer (MOET), allows acceleration of genetic progress through increased selection intensity of females and freezing of embryos enables low cost transport of genetic material across continents, and also conservation of diploid genomes. MOET may also be used to produce crossbred replacement females whilst only maintaining a small number of the straightbreds. In 1998, worldwide 440 000 ETs were recorded in cattle, 17 000 in sheep, 1 200 in goats and 2 500 in horses. About 80 percent of the bulls used in AI in the developed world are derived from ET. Despite the potential benefits of ET, its application is largely limited to developed countries. What are the required technical and/or policy elements that will enable developing countries to make use of these technologies on a greater scale?
ET is also one of the basic technologies for the application of more advanced reproductive biotechnologies such as ovum pick-up (OPU) and in vitro maturation and fertilization (IVM/IVF), sexing of embryos, cloning and of transgenics.
c) OPU and IVM/IVF
OPU in mammals allows the repeated pick-up of immature ova directly from the ovary without any major impact on the donor female and the use of these ova in IVM/IVF programmes. Making much greater use of genetically valuable females at a very early age may substantially increase genetic progress. What potential uses of these technologies are feasible in developing countries? What are the required technical and/or policy elements that will enable developing countries to make practical use of these technologies?
Technologies for rapid and reliable sexing of embryos allow the generation of only the desired sex at specific points in a genetic improvement programme, markedly reducing the number of animals required and enabling increased genetic progress. Sexing of semen using flow-cytometric sorting has decisively progressed in recent years but still with limited sorting rates, even for IVF. Sexed semen could markedly increase genetic improvement rates and have major implications for end-product commercial production. What is the scope for the use of these technologies in developing countries?
IVM/IVF are a source of large numbers of low cost embryos required for biotechnologies such as cloning and transgenesis. Three different types of clones are distinguished, as a result of: (1) limited splitting of an embryo (clones are genetically identical); (2) introducing an embryonic cell into an enucleated zona (clones may differ in their cytoplasmic inheritance); (3) introducing the nucleus of a somatic cell (milk, blood, dermal cells), after having reversed the DNA quiescence, into an enucleated zona (clones may differ in their cytoplasmic inheritance and substantial knowledge of the phenotype of the parent providing the somatic cell probably already exists). Cloning will be used to multiply transgenic founder animals. Cloning technologies offer potential as research tools and in areas of very high potential return. The sampling of somatic tissue may assist collection and transfer of breed samples from remote areas for conservation purposes.
126.96.36.199 Molecular biotechnologies
Various molecular biotechnology applications are available in animal production and health, involving both on-farm production and off-farm product processing applications. In this e-mail conference on-farm use is considered; only technologies based on DNA procedures are suggested for consideration.
a) DNA technologies and animal health
Animal diseases are a major and increasingly important factor reducing livestock productivity in developing countries. Use of DNA biotechnology in animal health may contribute significantly to improved animal disease control, thereby stimulating both food production and livestock trade.
i) Diagnostics and epidemiology
Advanced biotechnology-based diagnostic tests make it possible to identify the disease-causing agent(s) and to monitor the impact of disease control programmes, to a degree of diagnostic precision (sub-species, strain, bio-type level) not previously possible. For example, DNA analysis of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) has been shown to be composed of two genotypes, BVDV1 and BVDV2. Only the latter was found to produce haemorrhagic and acute fatal disease, and diagnostic tests to distinguish between the two are under development. Enzyme-immunoassay tests, which have the advantage of being relatively easily automated, have been developed for a wide range of parasites and microbes. Relevance and accessibility of these diagnostic tests to the livestock industry in developing countries are suggested for debate.
Molecular epidemiology is a fast growing discipline that enables characterization of pathogen isolates (virus, bacteria, parasites) by nucleotide sequencing for the tracing of their origin. This is particularly important for epidemic diseases, where the possibility of pinpointing the source of infection can significantly contribute to improved disease control. Furthermore, the development of genetic probes, which allow the detection of pathogen DNA/RNA (rather than antibodies) in livestock, and the advances in accurate, pen-side diagnostic kits, considerably enhance animal health programmes. The conference should establish the status and potential uses of these technologies in developing countries.
ii) Vaccine development
Although vaccines developed using traditional approaches have had a major impact on the control of foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest and other epidemic and endemic viral, mycoplasmal and bacterial diseases affecting livestock, recombinant vaccines offer various advantages over conventional vaccines. These are safety (no risk of reversion to virulent form, reduced potential for contamination with other pathogens, etc.) and specificity, better stability and importantly, such vaccines, coupled with the appropriate diagnostic test, allow the distinction between vaccinated and naturally infected animals. The latter characteristic is important in disease control programmes as it enables continued vaccination even when the shift from the control to the eradication stage is contemplated. Recombinant DNA technology also provides new opportunities for the development of vaccines against parasites (e.g. ticks, helminths, etc.) where conventional approaches have failed. What is the status and potential for the use of these technologies in developing countries?
b) DNA technologies in animal nutrition and growth
i) Nutritional physiology
Applications are being developed to improve the performance of animals through better nutrition. Enzymes can improve the nutrient availability from feedstuffs, lower feed costs and reduce output of waste into the environment. Prebiotics and probiotics or immune supplements can inhibit pathogenic gut micro-organisms or make the animal more resistant to them. Administration of recombinant somatotropin results in accelerated growth and leaner carcasses in meat animals and increased milk production in dairy cows. Immunomodulation can be used for enhancing the activity of endogenous anabolic hormones.
In poultry nutrition, possibilities include the use of feed enzymes, probiotics, single cell protein and antibiotic feed additives. The production of tailor-made plant products for use as feeds and free from antinutritional factors through recombinant DNA technology is also a possibility.
Plant biotechnology may produce forages with improved nutritional value or incorporate vaccines or antibodies into feeds that may protect the animals against diseases.
ii) Rumen biology
Rumen biotechnology has the potential to improve the nutritive value of ruminant feedstuffs that are fibrous, low in nitrogen and of limited nutritional value for other animal species. Biotechnology can alter the amount and availability of carbohydrate and protein in plants as well as the rate and extent of fermentation and metabolism of these nutrients in the rumen. The potential applications of biotechnology to rumen micro-organisms are many but technical difficulties limit its progress. Current limitations include: isolation and taxonomic identification of strains for inoculation and DNA recombination; isolation and characterization of candidate enzymes; level of production, localization and efficiency of secretion of the recombinant enzyme; stability of the introduced gene; fitness, survival and functional contribution of introduced new strains.
Methods for improving rumen digestion in ruminants include the use of probiotics, supplementation with chelated minerals and the transfer of rumen micro-organisms from other species.
c) DNA technologies in animal genetics and breeding
Most animal characteristics of interest to food and agriculture are determined by the combined interaction of many genes with the environment. The genetic improvement of locally adapted breeds will be important to realizing sustainable production systems.
The DNA technologies provide a major opportunity to advance sustainable animal production systems of higher productivity, through their application in:
i) Characterizing genetic variation
The use of microsatellites in genetic distancing of breeds is gaining momentum. While most breeds are located in the developing world, this work is confined to developed countries. How is it possible to more effectively involve the developing country breeds? Are the current protocols adequate or what further standardization is required?
ii) Increasing the speed of genetic improvement of locally adapted breeds
There are many links in the chain to realizing rapid genetic progress in the desired goals, with the objective being to rapidly transmit from selected breeding parents to offspring those alleles which contribute to enhanced expression of the traits of interest. In developing countries, generation intervals are generally longer for all animal species of interest than in developing countries. How can DNA technologies be used to reliably realize intense and accurate selection and short generation intervals and to enable genetic improvement of these many locally adapted breeds to contribute to the required livestock development?
There is rapid progress in the preparation of sufficiently dense microsatellite linkage maps to assist in the search for genetic traits of economic importance. Can these linkage maps be used to develop strategies of MAS and marker-assisted introgression to meet developing country breeding goals? How should this be approached? Given the limited financial resources, how might work for the developing country breeding programmes strategically utilize the rapidly accumulating functional genomic information of humans, mice and drosophila?
Transgenic animals have one or more copies of one or various foreign gene(s) incorporated in their genome or, alternatively, selected genes have been knocked out. The fact that it is possible to introduce or to delete genes offers considerable opportunities in the areas of increasing productivity, product quality and perhaps even adaptive fitness. In initial experiments, genes responsible for growth have been inserted. The technology is currently very costly and inefficient and applications in the near future seem to be limited to the production of transgenic animals as bio-reactors. What is the potential significance of these advanced technologies for developing countries and what are the technical, societal, political and ethical determinants of their application?
iii) Conserving genetic diversity
Global surveys indicate that some 30 percent of all remaining livestock breeds are at risk of loss, with little conservation effort currently invested. The majority of domestic animal breeds are in developing countries. Whilst animals cannot be re-formed from DNA alone, the conservation of genomic DNA may be useful. Under what circumstances should DNA genomic material be conserved and how should this be done by developing countries? What other information should be retained and what policy issues need to be taken into account?
In the Background Document to the conference the biotechnology options were classified into two main groups: reproductive and molecular. Application of biotechnologies in three different animal sectors was also considered: a) health (disease diagnosis, epidemiology and vaccine development); b) nutrition and growth (nutritional physiology and rumen biology); and c) genetics and breeding (genetic improvement and characterization/conservation of genetic diversity).
A total of 42 messages were posted during the conference, of which more than half were from developing countries. In contrast to the crop, forestry or fishery sector conferences (Chapters 2, 3 and 5, respectively), where a single biotechnology (genetic modification) dominated discussions, participants in this conference dealt with a wide range of biotechnologies and transgenic animals were not a major topic of discussion. Regarding the different animal sectors referred to previously, all three were covered at different stages throughout the conference although there was greatest discussion concerning the use of biotechnologies for the third sector, genetics and breeding, and least on the second sector, nutrition and growth.
The majority of messages came from participants with extensive experience of development projects and animal agriculture in developing countries. A large number of different topics were covered, ranging from those that were biotechnology-specific, such as participants experiences or comments regarding individual biotechnologies in their country, to those that dealt with broader issues, such as the impacts of biotechnology on livestock biodiversity in developing countries. In summarizing the discussions, participants comments are grouped into a number of main topics within two sections. The first section attempts to summarize what participants said about the appropriateness, significance and application of specific biotechnologies. The second section is not biotechnology-specific and deals with their comments on a range of broader issues.
Sections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 of this document thus attempt to summarize the main elements of the discussions. Specific references to messages posted, giving the participants surname and the date posted (day/month of the year 2000), are included. The messages can be viewed at www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c3logs.htm. Section 4.2.3 gives the name and country of the people that sent referenced messages.
4.2.1 Discussions related to the appropriateness, significance and application of individual biotechnologies in developing countries
The Background Document indicated that AI has already had a major impact on genetic improvement programmes in developed countries and questioned why it had not been more widely adopted in developing countries. Most comments received (which came mainly from participants in developing countries) dealt with the factors explaining the relatively moderate uptake and whether natural service is preferable to AI.
Steane (20/6) argued that low conception rates and dependence on donor funding, which eventually is exhausted (a point also highlighted by Tibary, 4/7), were two major factors behind its low use in developing countries. Steane, in a later message (30/6), elaborated on the first factor, suggesting that low conception rates were due to a) poor heat (oestrus) detection; b) poor communication and infrastructure; and c) the fact that inseminators do not carry out sufficient numbers of inseminations to achieve high success rates. Chandrasiri (24/7), on this subject, stressed the need for farmer education and suggested that significant improvement could be achieved if farmers were educated on proper heat detection and timing of AI.
Traoré (6/7) concluded that, for developing countries, at the present status, it is out of the question to consider AI as an alternative reproductive method to natural service (as is often the case in developed countries today). He maintained that there were still many problems with AI, due to a) relatively high costs, where components such as liquid nitrogen continued to increase in price; b) poor heat detection, often making heat synchronization necessary; and c) its use when unlinked to good health care and animal husbandry. This last point was also emphasized by Ramsey (17/8).
Na-Chiangmai (4/8) supported the conclusion of Traoré (6/7), saying that AI at the small farmer level is not practical, especially for swamp buffalo and that natural mating probably gives better results under village conditions. He noted that correct timing of AI can be difficult for small farmers when the buffaloes are kept far from the village, due to problems with heat detection and the short ovulation period. Chandrasiri (24/7) said that although AI could be considered as an alternative to natural service, it was not popular among small-scale dairy farmers in Sri Lanka, a country where 85 percent of cows are naturally bred. Wiwie (11/7) maintained however, that in her country, Indonesia, AI was indeed an alternative to natural service for cattle because heat detection was easy, as farmers had only few cattle and these were kept in pens, and because bulls were both expensive to maintain and to transport within the country, which consists of many islands. Tibary (7/8) argued that although natural service gave good fertility results, the cost and the accident/health risks involved in keeping live males meant that AI should be recommended. He maintained that efficient programmes involving ovulation synchronization and AI, without requiring heat detection, could be developed.
ET is a more advanced reproductive biotechnology and is less widely used than AI in both developed and developing countries. Its potential impact and current status in developing countries were considered in the conference.
The potential merits of ET for dissemination of crossbred genetic material, for conservation of endangered local breeds and for genetic improvement in developing countries were mentioned by Traoré (6/7). He also, however, argued that the technology had, since the beginning, been too focused on dissemination of purebred genetic material for commercial production. Steane (20/6) felt that its use in the developing world would be more effective for dissemination of appropriate genetic material (such as crossbred dairy females) than for genetic improvement. However, he highlighted (30/6) that the current conception rates were low, for the same reasons as he gave earlier for AI and that they would need to be improved. Tibary (7/8) suggested that if the parties involved are convinced that technologies such as ET and AI are useful, then technical problems can be solved if there is adequate funding of local research. As an example, he cited the large progress made in ET and AI in camels in the Middle East. Ramsey (17/8) emphasized that both ET and AI can be very useful, provided that other basic inputs (good husbandry, nutrition and management) are in place.
Wiwie (5/7) reported her experiences with a dairy cattle ET project in Indonesia and suggested that such projects could be successful if begun slowly with local pilot projects and then expanded on a step-by-step basis. Chandrasiri (24/7) reported that in Sri Lanka, ET was still only at the experimental stage and that it would take a few more years for it to be established commercially.
188.8.131.52 IVM/IVF and sexing
There was little discussion about these techniques. Chandrasiri (24/7) however, raised the issue of using IVM/IVF in countries like Sri Lanka, where slaughter of female cattle and buffaloes is prohibited and slaughter house ovaries are thus unavailable. He suggested that collaborations with countries allowing their slaughter would solve the problem. Steane (20/6) and Chandrasiri (24/7) both mentioned that in some circumstances it would be advantageous to have sexed genetic material available for dissemination purposes.
Blair (29/6 and 30/6) suggested that adult cloning could be beneficial in centralized breeding schemes for efficiently disseminating the genetic gains achieved to other levels of the animal population. Cronjé (29/6) proposed that the government could stimulate farmer support (including financial) for centralized breeding schemes by offering free cloning of genetically superior animals and sale of clones back to the farmers at subsidized rates. Gibson (21/7), on the other hand, recommended that one should stick closely to foreseeable realities. He said there was no evidence that the use of cloning for livestock dissemination can be economically viable in developed countries and that we should exercise extreme caution in predicting future applications of cloning technologies.
184.108.40.206 Genetic modification
Compared to other conferences of the Forum, discussion of this biotechnology was less emotive and extensive. Muir (10/7) felt that transgenic technology offered tremendous potential for developed and developing countries and said that he strongly supported it. He emphasized, however, that potential negative impacts, as well as the true costs of the technology, should be evaluated. Steane (20/6) was concerned that, due to financial restraints, all the tests required to evaluate the potential adverse effects of GM animals might not be carried out. Martens (3/7) argued that before introducing GM animals, their performance should be tested under local feeding and management conditions. Gibson (21/7) said that it was appropriate that there should be a debate on testing GM livestock but that, in his opinion, appropriate testing is not a substantive issue or limitation. He suggested that genetic modification had as much potential for animals as for crops and that production of GM livestock was already economically feasible (although not cheap) due to advances in transgenic technologies. He was, however, concerned that resources would not be directed towards producing GM animals of benefit to developing countries, such as those with improved disease or parasite resistance.
220.127.116.11 Use of molecular markers for MAS
There were some differences of opinion concerning the potential benefits of MAS for developing countries. Steane (20/6) pointed out that some research results suggest that MAS could reduce the overall total genetic progress. Muir (10/7) also urged caution and referred to some of his computer modelling results, which showed that, in certain conditions, MAS had very little positive impact on genetic improvement. He thus questioned whether it would be appropriate for developing countries to use the large financial resources that MAS requires for this purpose. Jeggo (20/7), on the other hand, was more optimistic, arguing that the use of microsatellite marker information to analyse production traits may offer ways to maximize use of the favourable genetic characters of indigenous livestock and to accelerate their genetic improvement. He suggested that support should be given so that developing countries could be provided with this technology.
18.104.22.168 Comparisons of different biotechnologies
In addition to discussions on individual biotechnologies, some participants also tried to compare and contrast them. Gibson (21/7), in the context of their application to livestock agriculture in the developing world, tried to place them in four classes according to the levels of infrastructure they require. In order of increasing complexity, there were:
Some participants compared the two principal reproductive biotechnologies - AI and ET. Steane (20/6 and 30/6) maintained that timing practicalities favoured the use of ET over AI at the local level, as the latter requires efficient heat detection followed by quick insemination of the female, whereas with ET there is less urgency. The ET technology is nevertheless more specialized and Wiwie (11/7) noted that, unlike AI, ET was only carried out by a few experts in her country, Indonesia. Traoré (6/7) maintained that, except in some high producing zones, AI was more competitive than ET, as farmers were then dealing with crossbred genetic material that was more adapted than the purebred genetic material that tended to be transferred by ET. He thus concluded that contrary to AI, ET will still belong for a long time to the field of research.
4.2.2 Discussions on broader issues
22.214.171.124 Biotechnology and the dynamics of livestock production in developing countries
Wiwie (28/6) and Ali (29/6) provided a reminder of the current situation for many farmers in developing countries. In Indonesia, farmers usually have one to three cattle and a few head of sheep and goats and the animals are kept as financial security for the future (Wiwie, 28/6). Ali (29/6) noted that due to poverty, consumption of livestock products is viewed as more of a luxury than a necessity for many people in developing countries. The peoples lack of purchasing power means then that farmers keep livestock as a social insurance rather than for profit (Ali, 29/6). Woodford (4/7) argued that it is inevitable that agriculture in the less developed countries will undergo enormous change in relation to socio-economics and farming systems, where biotechnology was likely to play an important role and that the same transition from rural-based to urban-based societies, that happened gradually over the last 400 years in developed countries, was occurring now in developing countries, but at a much faster rate.
Ali (29/6) noted that in many countries, good prices are only available in urban areas where economic growth in other sectors provides a spill over effect to the livestock sector and that only progressive farmers close to urban areas, where the products can be sold at reasonable prices, may use biotechnologies. Traoré (6/7) supported this by saying that AI could be justified in some breeding systems with crossbreeding of local with exotic breeds, where there was a socio-economic environment to justify the crossbreeding operation, such as in peri-urban milk production systems. He said that this had been the experience in Mali. Regarding industrialization of animal production in peri-urban areas, Steane (20/6) urged that more attention should be paid to its impact on the environment and suggested that biotechnology might be used to address this problem.
126.96.36.199 Why biotechnology is used relatively little in developing countries
Several messages addressed this important question. Many explanations were provided and the factors were often related.
a) Lack of infrastructure
Sedrati (14/8) recognized the large potential that new biotechnologies in animal agriculture have for breeders and consumers, but maintained that these technologies need an environment that we dont have in developing countries, in terms of educational and basic infrastructural (water, roads, sanitation, etc.) standards. His conclusion was that the role of developed countries should be to raise the levels of social development in developing countries so that it would then be possible for them to develop and use biotechnologies. Gibson (21/7), in a similar vein, wrote that the main difficulty in applying new technologies in developing compared to developed countries was that the vast majority of new technologies build upon and depend upon a highly developed physical, social and educational infrastructure, which makes transplantation to other settings very difficult. To integrate the need for large infrastructural requirements with the wishes of developing countries for locally-based solutions, he argued that there was an even greater need now for large international centres to carry out biotechnology research and development. Hanotte (11/8) supported this and referred to the successful example of the collaboration shown between individual African countries in a project to genetically characterize indigenous cattle, where the molecular data from each country was analysed in a single international research centre. The importance of cooperation between research centres in both developing and developed countries was also emphasized by Traoré (16/8).
b) Low levels of information/knowledge about science and agricultural biotechnology
The challenges in this area are considerable since, as pointed out by Sedrati (14/8), the levels of illiteracy can be quite high in rural areas of developing countries while only few farmers have technical training. Worku (29/6) nevertheless emphasized the importance of reducing the information and knowledge gap that exists between developing and developed countries regarding agricultural biotechnology (he called this the biotech divide). He proposed that several approaches need to be taken to bridging the divide, including enhancement of science education (and integrating applications/principles of biotechnology into the curriculum) at the school and college level, while also targeting extension workers, opinion leaders, small farmers and consumers.
c) Low capacity of developing countries to use biotechnology
Jeggo (20/7) pointed out that there is an increasing gap between the ability of developing and developed countries to utilize biotechnology and that it was critical to bridge this north-south technology gap. Sedrati (14/8) pointed out that the level of investment in scientific and technical research in developing countries was very low and that, even when people in developing countries are trained in high-level technologies, they tend to take jobs in developed countries because of the higher salaries and better working conditions.
Regarding capacity-building in developing countries, Traoré (6/7) was convinced that researchers in developing countries had a lot to gain from cooperating with research institutes in developed countries to get access to useful biotechnologies and adapt them to the needs of developing countries. Jeggo (20/7) suggested that some technologies offered significant advantages to developing countries that did not hold for developed countries, but that they would not be realized unless support for the introduction and use of these technologies was provided.
d) Insufficient economic incentives for farmers to use biotechnology
As pointed out by Worku (29/6), poor profit margins in farming is one of the factors contributing to low rates of adoption of biotechnologies in developing countries. As the general population is poor and cannot typically afford to buy meat, milk or eggs, farmers do not tend to keep livestock for profit and so have no incentive to use biotechnologies (Ali, 29/6). The exception is when farmers produce close to urban areas, where they can expect good prices and their investments in the use of biotechnologies may be rewarded (Ali, 29/6).
e) Reliance on external funding for biotechnology projects
The dependence of many biotechnology projects on external funding was also considered to be a factor behind the low uptake of biotechnologies as often the projects collapsed once the funding finished. In discussing AI and ET, Tibary (4/7) pointed out that in his experience, the use of these technologies is usually erratic and depends on funds provided by development projects and as soon as these funds are gone the activity ceases. This was also the reaction of Steane (20/6) regarding AI, saying that it was often free and poorly structured with the result that when donor funding ended there were insufficient financial resources to continue.
Wiwie (5/7) agreed that this was a problem, but suggested that if the projects were carried out slowly on a step-by-step basis rather than as one-off, big projects they might be successful. By beginning with a small pilot project, as she had done in Indonesia with ET, there was firstly, a good probability of getting successful results and, secondly, seeing these good results, farmers were then more likely to support (and pay for) expansion of the project. Steane (30/6) emphasized that proper study and planning of the use of biotechnologies was first needed and that, unless planning was done and the extension services properly informed, no sustainable projects would be achieved. Gibson (21/7) expressed similar sentiments, writing that through experience we have learned that development that is based locally and driven locally will have the greatest chance of being sustainable.
188.8.131.52 Relationship between biotechnology and other components of animal agriculture
Several participants emphasized the fact that biotechnology and genetic improvement in particular, cannot be considered in isolation from the other components of animal agriculture. Tibary (4/7) bemoaned the fact that in many cases the use of biotechnology has been looked at as a magic solution to the growing demand on animal product. He argued that, since genetic improvement can only be expressed if other aspects of livestock management are improved, any implementation of reproductive biotechnology (his major area of interest) should be part of a larger programme to improve health and forage production. Donkin (21/8) echoed these sentiments, saying that although the temptation is to view new technologies as being able to provide a quick-fix solution, this was seldom true as the problems were usually more complex than they initially appear. He also argued that no genetic improvement should be introduced without making provision for other improvements in aspects such as nutrition, disease control, or simply in the organization and control of breeding.
Ramsey (17/8) expressed similar views, emphasizing that biotechnology needs to be used responsibly and that important issues, such as general animal husbandry, should not be overlooked. Referring specifically to AI, he noted that very often the fact that stressed and underfed animals do not respond well to synchronization and AI is simply overlooked. Traoré (6/7) was of the same opinion, saying the application of AI as a lucrative activity remains questionable if it is not linked to some other activities, such as health care and advice on animal husbandry practice.
Given that new biotechnologies are often very expensive and require sophisticated back-up services, facilities and technical staff, Donkin (21/8) suggested it was appropriate to ask whether the resources could be used more effectively for developing countries. Muir (10/7) made a similar point, writing that high tech does not necessarily equate with good tech. Good tech is that which is cost effective and appropriate for the situation. Referring specifically to MAS, he argued that the economic resources might be better utilized in raising the management skills of farmers or in improving the extension services.
184.108.40.206 Biotechnology and vaccine development or disease diagnosis
According to Steane (30/6) the potential of biotechnology is probably greater than in most other areas of animal production when directed towards new vaccines or the use of disease resistance genes. Halos (13/7) noted that one of the major problems facing the livestock production services was availability of effective vaccines far from major urban areas. As those currently available need refrigeration, she argued that DNA vaccines may help to solve this problem. Jeggo (20/7) was slightly more cautious, saying that although biotechnology offered solutions for animal vaccines, there is a long way to go. He argued that DNA vaccines, recombinant vaccines and genetically modified marker vaccines are obvious paths to follow, but that there were problems due to a) the intense debate on GMOs currently taking place in Europe; and b) the limited research funds available for work on developing country diseases. Regarding diagnosis of animal diseases, Jeggo (20/7) argued that diagnostic systems based on the polymerase chain reaction had an advantage due to their specificity and sensitivity and that technical developments were making them more attractive. He noted, however, that their use in developing countries was still limited due to problems of assay control and contamination.
220.127.116.11 Biotechnology and nutrition
Cronjé (5/7) suggested that blood metabolite concentrations could be useful measures of nutrient status for free-ranging animals in developing areas. Makkar (17/7) provided some detailed comments on the potential role of biotechnology in animal nutrition. He argued that the manipulation of plants is likely to improve the utilization of feed resources by livestock with lesser investment of efforts and money compared to the manipulation of rumen microbes. To illustrate how genetic manipulation of plants might improve feed quality, he gave seven examples where it held great promise such as increasing sulphur amino acids in leguminous forage or increasing the digestibility of existing nutrients, especially fibre, for tropical forage. He questioned, however, whether reduction or elimination of plant secondary metabolites (anti-nutritional factors) by plant breeding and molecular technologies might be advisable in developing countries as the plants are faced with various environmental challenges and the metabolites have a protective role - a viewpoint that was supported by Dundon (18/7). Makkar (17/7) suggested that problems caused by the metabolites could be mitigated in some cases by transferring rumen micro-organisms from resistant to susceptible animals.
18.104.22.168 Traits for genetic improvement in developing countries
A range of biotechnologies can be used to genetically improve livestock in developing countries. There was some discussion in the conference about which traits should be targeted for genetic improvement. Steane (20/6) questioned whether it was sensible in dairy cattle breeding to follow the developed world and to increase body size and maintenance requirements and to reduce fertility as had happened with the Holstein-Friesian population. Cronjé (20/6) maintained that selection for single traits, as practised in developed countries, increased the animals adaptation to higher levels of nutrition and that it was important to genetically select the animals so that they could reproduce and carry out other essential functions when nutrient supply was low. The importance and potential of using biotechnology to genetically improve disease resistance was emphasized by Steane (30/6), Worku (1/7) and by Gibson (21/7), who said, regarding genetic modifications of livestock of potential benefit to the developing world, that he would focus on efforts to modify resistance to disease and parasites.
22.214.171.124 Genotype by environment (G x E) interactions
The topic of G x E interactions, where the genetic superiority/ranking of animals is dependent on the environment they are in, was discussed in two different contexts: i) the import of genetic material selected in developed countries to developing countries; and ii) genetic improvement programmes in developing countries
a) Import of exotic breeds
Both Woodford (4/7) and Ramsey (17/8) noted that experts from developed countries often advocated use of foreign breeds for developing countries, a strategy that was often unsuccessful as the animals were not genetically adapted to the new environment. Cronjé (20/6) emphasized the animal nutrition aspect to this problem, arguing that caution should be expressed about using genetic material in developing countries that has been selected under high nutritional levels in developed countries. Cronjé (5/7) however, also insisted that, given the increasing demand for food for the expanding human population, the existence of G x E interactions should not be used to delay the application of biotechnology until all genotypes had been tested in all environments.
b) Genetic improvement programmes in developing countries
To overcome the difficulties associated with on-farm recording and testing in developing countries, Blair (29/6) suggested that genetic improvement programmes should be based in centralized breeding stations, from which the superior genetic material could be then disseminated. Cronjé (29/6) however, argued that this approach was associated with problems because in such stations i) the management/nutrition levels were typically far superior than in normal farm conditions; and ii) genetic selection was usually based on a single trait recorded in the station environment. Because of G x E interactions, he concluded that this could result in animals being selected that were genetically superior in the station but inferior in the farmers environment. He suggested a compromise, where farmers would cooperate in a group breeding scheme, each contributing their own animals to be recorded under normal nutritional/management conditions in a centralized farm or grazing area. The concept was supported by Muir (1/7) who insisted that when G x E interactions are strong then the way to deal with the problem is to select the animals in the normal environment of production. Blair (3/7) suggested that the solution was to change the ranking process in the centralized station, which would require either assessing new traits on the station animals, recording their relatives under commercial conditions outside the station or modifying the station environment to reflect commercial conditions (as suggested by Muir, 1/7).
126.96.36.199 Impacts of biotechnology on livestock biodiversity in developing countries
There was much discussion throughout the conference about the potential impacts (negative and positive) that biotechnology has (or may have) on animal genetic resources in developing countries. The theme is important as much of the potentially important livestock biodiversity is found in developing rather than developed countries (Steane, 20/6; Hanotte, 11/8) and it was argued that it could be a potential goldmine for developing countries if properly studied and evaluated (Hanotte, 11/8).
a) Negative impacts of biotechnology on livestock biodiversity
Discussions about the negative impacts were, to a large degree, a consequence of the many experiences that developing countries have already had of the use of reproductive biotechnologies (especially AI) to introduce foreign or exotic genetic material from developed countries, either for crossing with the local breeds or as purebreds. The primary negative impacts mentioned were that the existing adapted genetic material might be diluted or lost (Donkin, 21/8), seen for example in the Philippines (Halos, 13/7), and that the imported genetic material might not be adapted to the new environment and would require improvements in nutrition/housing, etc. since if we change the genetics then the chances are that we must also change the environment (Woodford, 4/7). Ramsey (17/8) expressed similar sentiments, saying that using AI, adapted indigenous animals have been crossed with breeds that are often totally unsuited to the environments in question - and we are left with a legacy of animals that require additional inputs to perform - and an eroded indigenous gene pool. Cronjé (20/6) also emphasized that once genes are introduced into an indigenous gene pool, it is hard to remove them if they are later discovered to be inappropriate. Traoré (16/8) suggested that a problem for breed conservation is that foreign breeds often have a strong appeal to farmers because they, and their crosses, are believed to be of high performance.
Note that crossbreeding, per se, using AI, was not seen as being a negative factor. Steane (20/6) lamented the fact that very few developing countries offered AI of local breeds to allow their sires to be used in crossbreeding systems, but said that this was changing slowly. Ramsey (17/8) argued that in certain conditions (where there was a need for a specific product, such as milk and where the management inputs were sufficiently high), there was a niche for the development of a composite breed using local adapted animals as the dam line. The sire line could be non-local but should be chosen carefully, keeping the developing country environment in mind. He provided two examples of the development of composite breeds in South Africa.
b) Positive impacts of biotechnology on livestock biodiversity
Many participants emphasized the potential positive contribution that biotechnology could make to the conservation and characterization of livestock biodiversity (e.g. Jeggo, 20/7; Ramsey, 17/8).
Ramsey (17/8) maintained that the preservation of endangered breeds was a vitally important niche for biotechnology. Here, he argued that reproductive biotechnologies, such as AI and ET (also promoted in this context by Traoré, 6/7), and DNA technologies, to verify parentage and breed purity, could be very useful.
The importance of using molecular markers for studying livestock biodiversity was underlined by Hanotte (11/8). He noted that they allow us to identify the ancestral origins and to investigate the history of domestication of modern livestock species. Muir (21/8) argued that, having identified the ancestral wild populations from which the modern breeds evolved, biotechnology could play an important role in identifying alleles of production traits present in ancestral populations but absent in modern breeds.
Hanotte (11/8) stressed the importance of international cooperation when using molecular markers to genetically characterize local breeds and gave an example of successful collaboration involving an African cattle project. This point was strongly supported by Tiesnamurti (16/8) and Li (17/8), who, together with Steane (25/8), gave some advice on how such international projects could be successfully operated. Li (17/8) also argued that, apart from molecular markers, basic data on production characters, population size and breed histories were also important for genetic characterization. Traoré (16/8) maintained that although characterization was an important step, it was not enough to ensure conservation of the local genetic resources, as this depended on a true appreciation of their characteristics. Ramsey (17/8) suggested that, wherever possible, conservation should start with on-farm initiatives.
188.8.131.52 The role of animal scientists in the biotechnology debate
Harper (18/7) urged scientists to be more active in public discussions about biotechnology and in providing information to groups looking to learn about biotechnology. He predicted that this information-provider role would grow for scientists in the coming decades. He also observed that it was important for scientists to communicate the role that the different biotechnologies are already playing in the production system, although without over-emphasizing the importance of transgenic solutions, as this may lead to loss of public support. Donkin (21/8) noted that scientists tend to be enthusiastic about technological advances and keen to find ways to apply them. He cautioned, however, that this enthusiasm needs to be directed appropriately and that in development projects, the people to be helped should also be involved. These elements of caution were also expressed by Steane (25/8) who suggested that many scientists in developing countries seemed to emphasize obtaining the technology rather than looking at the possible adaptations, which could be infrastructural, needed to make them serve local needs. For him, this emphasized the need for increased dialogue between the various interested parties - planners, scientists, extensionists and above all, farmers.
4.2.3 Name and country of participants with referenced messages
Ali, Kassim Omar. Norway
Blair, Hugh. New Zealand
Chandrasiri, A.D.N. Sri Lanka.
Cronjé, Pierre. South Africa
Donkin, Ned. South Africa
Dundon, Stanislaus. United States
Gibson, John. Kenya
Halos, Saturnina. The Philippines
Hanotte, Olivier. Kenya
Harper, Gregory. Australia
Jeggo, Martyn. Austria
Li, Kui. China
Makkar, Harinder. Austria
Martens, Mary-Howell. United States
Muir, Bill. United States
Na-Chiangmai, Ancharlie. Thailand
Ramsey, Keith. South Africa
Sedrati, MHammed. Morocco
Steane, David. Thailand
Tibary, Ahmed. United States
Tiesnamurti, Bess. Indonesia
Traoré, Adama. Mali
Wiwie, Caroline. Indonesia
Woodford, Keith. Australia
Worku, Mulumebet. United States