Genetic resistance to African Swine Fever under investigation

Anecdotal evidence that there are pig populations in Africa with genetic resistance to the devastating African Swine Fever (ASF) has not been proved so far. But such resistance could offer a lifeline in the costly and deadly battle against a disease that is sweeping through pig farms across the continent - leaving thousands of animals dead of the disease, or slaughtered in the drive to stop its spread. It has also spread beyond Africa in the past.

Geneticists and veterinary experts from six countries met at FAO headquarters in Rome in early January and drew up an action plan, first to determine rapidly and conclusively whether or not there is a genetic basis for resistance to ASF, and if so, how best to use this to assist farming communities. Rapidly advancing molecular genetic tools will be key to this work. The investigation highlights the importance of understanding the value of and safeguarding domestic animal biodiversity. (Go to Domestic Animal Diversity Information System.) ASF resistant pigs may not be favoured by some livestock farmers today, but they could hold the solution to a deadly and devastating disease.

The meeting worked out a programme to answer the basic questions within three years. The work will be done at the Onderstepoort Institute for Exotic Diseases in South Africa in partnership with other organizations. This initial phase is being supported by two FAO Divisions, the Animal Production and Health Division in Rome and the Joint FAO/IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Division in Vienna. But further funding will be needed to properly evaluate whether a genetic solution could provide at least part of the answer.

29 January 1999

New World Screwworm in the United Kingdom

A case of New World Screwworm (NWS) - a deadly parasite with the potential to devastate livestock industries - was diagnosed in London just before Christmas 1998. A sample of larvae taken at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases from a woman who had recently returned from a visit to Trinidad were identified as NWS.

NWS is currently confined to the tropical and subtropical Americas. An outbreak in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya between 1988 and 1992 focused world attention on the risk that this dangerous parasite could establish itself outside its natural range. NWS was eradicated in Libya using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) (go to The Sterile Insect Technique ). The same technique was used to eradicate it from the United States, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The threat of transboundary reinfestation into free areas is a constant and underestimated danger, and will not decrease until NWS is eliminated from the Caribbean and South American regions.

26 January 1999

AG21 spotlights dangers of intensifying livestock production

AG21, the online magazine of FAO's Agriculture Department, has spotlighted the dangers of the global trend towards intensifying livestock production in two articles on the subject. Intensive production of animals may meet market demands but "the hidden costs of such systems cannot be ignored", according to a viewpoint piece by FAO experts Brian Hursey and Jan Slingenburgh. These costs include the consequences of demanding huge feed imports from developing countries, environmental degradation, concerns over animal welfare and the emerging diseases that affect humans and animals.

A companion piece looks at livestock production in Asia, where "rapidly increasing demand for livestock products, together with the changes in international trade, is placing pressure on [the] livestock sector both to expand and adapt". The article considers the many implications of the changes that are taking place, from the urbanization of livestock production to the trend away from multi-purpose to single-purpose animals.

19 January 1999

Meeting of Committee on Commodity Problems reviews impact of Uruguay Round

The 62nd session of the Committee on Commodity Problems met in Rome from 12 to 15 January 1999. The changing world agricultural commodity situation and outlook, including projections to the year 2005, and the impact of the Uruguay Round on agricultural markets were reviewed. The meeting also examined the trade situation of small island developing states and FAO's Strategic Framework 2000-2015.

15 January 1999

Desert Locust Bulletin 243 released

Desert locust control operations were increased against hopper bands and swarms in the northern interior of Sudan in December, according to the latest bulletin. "There is a moderate risk that some of these may move to the Red Sea coastal plains and breed," says the Bulletin, but unusually dry conditions along both sides of the sea are expected to hamper any movement. Elsewhere, the desert locust situation has remained calm. Desert Locust Bulletin 243 reports on the general locust situation during December and provides a forecast until mid-February 1999.

8 January 1999

Special Report: Sudan

In the Sudan, a record harvest of 6.51 million tonnes of cereals is forecast for 1998/99 - some 46 percent higher than the previous year - according to a joint FAO/World Food Programme Special Report issued 23 December 1998. However, "despite high production and stocks in the north, the ongoing civil conflict in the south means that some 2.36 million people in southern Sudan will be in need of emergency food assistance in 1999," said the report. Also, in the north, vulnerable groups will need food aid especially during the lean period of March to September 1999. The report recommends the local purchase of food aid in order to help support markets and ensure locally acceptable cereal varieties.

8 January 1999

Special Report: Ethiopia

Cereal and pulse production from the main season in Ethiopia was up 36 percent in 1998 over the previous year, according to the report of a joint FAO/World Food Programme assessment mission to the country issued 21 December 1998. The production forecast of 11.69 million tonnes will mean reduced import requirements in 1999 and will allow cereal stocks to be replenished. Despite the excellent harvest, however, "some 2 million people will require 180 000 tonnes of food aid", said the Special Report.

8 January 1999

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