Animal genetic resources
A global programme for sustainable development

Proceedings of an FAO Expert Consultation Rome, Italy, September 1989

edited by
Gerald Wiener

Rome, © FAO 1990


The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-102926-1

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The decade of the 1980s has been one of change and progress for animal genetic resources. The growing world population and expectations of higher living standards are increasing the demand for animal products, especially in developing countries. Livestock producers, in response, try to increase productivity per animal. This usually involves attempts to change the genotypes of traditional livestock types either by breed substitution or, more commonly by crossbreeding. Everywhere there is a tendency to focus upon fewer breeds and crosses which are more suited to current production systems and market conditions. Consequently many indigenous breeds are endangered and may be lost in the absence of special steps to preserve them. Many have unique traits. In developing countries they are often specially adapted to harsh climates, able to use poor quality feed and resist endemic disease. It would be tragic if they were lost. There is a growing awareness in the world community that an international approach is needed to preserve biological diversity in its many forms including animal genetic resources.

Animal Genetic Resources have been a component of FAO's programme since the organization was formed more than 40 years ago. Increasing activities have been developed during the 1980s cooperatively with UNEP, including the design of new methods. In particular, Regional Animal Gene Banks have recently been established in Africa, Asia and Latin America for the cryogenic storage of germplasm of endangered species and breeds. A Global Animal Genetic Data Bank has been created by FAO working with the European Association of Animal Production (EAAP).

In April 1989 the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG), which is one of the FAO Governing Bodies, reviewed the programme on Animal Genetic Resources. It approved the current programme without reservation and recommended that it be expanded to an operational global programme as a matter of urgency. It recognised inter alia, that there is need for an international strategy, programme and legal instrument to ensure the availability of animal genetic resources for present and for future generations. The COAG proposed that, in addition to the continued development and enlargement of the existing programme, FAO should consider further the many technical, legal, financial and institutional aspects of such a global programme for animal genetic resources and recommended that an Expert Consultation should be held to examine these topics. The FAO Council subsequently affirmed its support for these proposals in June 1989.

The Expert Consultation was held in September 1989 in Rome and brought together participants from all regions of the world. It included experts in all domestic animal species of mammals and poultry. The participants were invited in their personal capacities although several of them were also closely associated with other organizations and were thus able to present their interests. Dr. G.E. Joandet of Argentina and Dr. L. Ollivier of France were unanimously elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively.

This publication is the record of that Expert Consultation. The recommendations are given first, followed by the papers presented, while the appendices provide supporting information relating to the background of the topic.

John Hodges
Technical Secretary of Expert Consultation
FAO Senior Officer (Animal Breeding & Genetic Resources)


This publication is concerned with the use and preservation of animal genetic resources and with the appropriate infrastructures needed at national, regional and global levels for their management and conservation. It contains the recommendations and papers of the Expert Consultation held by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in September 1989 in Rome, Italy. The papers and the recommendations cover the following aspects of a global programme: institutional, legal and financial, biotechnology, live animal preservation, world watch list and early warning system, poultry and technical and organisational aspects. The papers were prepared by experts from all regions of the world and covered all species of domestic animals. The recommendations are directed particularly to the creation of an International Commission on Animal Genetic Resources, an International Undertaking and an International Fund.


Cattle, Buffalo, Sheep, Goats, Camilidae, Pigs, Equines, Fowl, Poultry, Chicken, Ducks, Geese, wild animals, breeds, genetics, breeding, heterosis, crossbreeding, selection, germplasm, conservation, preservation, in situ, ex situ, cryogenic, embryo vitrification, biotechnology, artificial insemination, embryo transfer, embryo manipulation, gene transfer, cells, rare breed, endangered status, critical status, small population, effective size, environment, adaptation, disease control, disease resistance, World Watch, gene bank, data bank, animal descriptors, training, education, finance, institutional, legal.

Hyperlinks to non-FAO Internet sites do not imply any official endorsement of or responsibility for the opinions, ideas, data or products presented at these locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided. The sole purpose of links to non-FAO sites is to indicate further information available on related topics.

This electronic document has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software. FAO declines all responsibility for any discrepancies that may exist between the present document and its original printed version.




Key words



Papers presented at the Expert Consultation on FAO Programmes for the Preservation of Animal Genetic Resources

A   Institutional and Legal Aspects

Institutional and legal aspects - recent developments and future prospects, H.A. Fitzhugh

Legal questions relating to the preservation and use of animal genetic resources, M.A. Hermitte

Existing legal and institutional arrangements for conservation of genetic resources, Legal Secretariat

Programme and finance aspects of FAO workplan for animal genetic resources, Animal Production Service Secretariat

B   Technical Problems Associated with the Preservation of Animal Genetic Resources

Review of regional animal gene banks and recommendations from Hannover Workshop on associated topics raised by the Tenth Committee on Agriculture, J. Hodges

Future biotechnological possibilities in preserving animal germplasm, G. Brem

Cryogenic preservation of wild animal germplasm, M.H. Woodford

C   Live animal preservation

Methods and experiences with in situ preservation of farm animals, I. Bodó

The organisation of live animal preservation programmes, EL. Henson

Programmes for live animal preservation for Latin America, A. da Silva Mariante

Programmes for preservation of livestock breeds in Eastern Europe, S. Wezyk

Live animal conservation projects in Africa, L.L. Setshwaelo

Experience with in situ preservation of poultry breeds, R.D. Crawford

D   World Watch on Endangered Species

The global animal genetic data bank, D. Simon

Establishment of a world watch list for endangered livestock breeds, K. Maijala

Endangered livestock breeds in

East Africa, K.O. Adeniji

West Africa, L.O. Ngere

South Asia, R.M. Acharya

East Asia, Chen Yaochun

South America, A, da Silva Mariante

Latin America, G.E. Joandet

Endangered breeds of sheep, J.J. Lauvergne

Endangered breeds of poultry and ducks, B. Gunawan

Endangered South American camelids, C. Novoa

F   Appendices

1   Committee on Agriculture: Preservation of Animal Genetic Resources, April–May 1989

IIRationale for the preservation of endangered breeds
 (i)The case against institutionalised preservation
 (ii)Justification for preservation
  • scientific
  • economic
 (iii)Summary of the justification for preservation
IIIWhen is a breed in danger?
IVPreservation methods
 (i)Live animals
 (ii)Cryogenic Preservation
  • sperms and oocytes
  • embryos
  • genes
 (iii)Comparison of costs of different techniques
VStrategies for preservation in developing countries
 (ii)Expert consultations and meetings
 (v)Genetic characterization
 (vi)Promotion of research
 (vii)Regional animal gene banks
 (viii)Concurrent strategies in developed countries
VISummary of present position
VIIRecommendations for action by FAO
VIIIRecommendations for action by national governments Bibliography
 Annex 1:Terms of reference of FAO/UNEP Expert Panel
 Annex 2:Regional animal gene banks - action plan

2   Extract from the report of the Tenth COAG Meeting held in April 1989 (CL/95/9)

3   Extract from the report of the 95th Council Meeting (CL/REP/1)

4   Introductory Statement, H.A. Jasiorowski

5   Agenda

6   List of participants

7   List of participants: FAO Workshop on Animal Genetic Resources