New computer system aims to halt continuing erosion of world animal genetic resources





Examples of threatened animal genetic
resources in:

With almost one-third of the world's livestock and poultry breeds threatened with extinction, FAO has introduced a new information system created to help countries sustainably use and develop their irreplaceable domestic animal species and breeds.

The Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) - Stage 2, launched at a news conference held in Rome on 7 September, is a multi-language system, available on-line over the Internet and off-line on a CD-ROM. It operates as a clearing-house mechanism, providing a vital link among farmers, scientists and policy-makers. It will enable them to update and access data about breeds, and to exchange views, information and experiences. The information will help countries develop strong networks to design and implement cost-effective action plans for managing the genetic resources of all domestic farm species and breeds.

Directly and indirectly, domestic animals supply around 30 percent of total human requirements for food and agriculture. About 2 billion people are estimated to depend on them for their livelihoods. This contribution comes from some 4 500 to 5 000 breeds drawn from 40 or more species that have been developed over the last 12 000 years. But it is estimated that nearly one-third of these breeds are currently in danger of disappearing.

"Animal genetic resources are being eroded in both developed and developing countries," said Keith Hammond, Senior Officer in FAO's Animal Genetic Resources Group. "The latest information we have indicates that 30 percent of the world's domestic animal breeds are at risk of extinction."

FAO's Global Programme for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources was developed to help countries reverse this trend. It aims to assist countries to manage their animal genetic resources more effectively, both for conservation purposes and as an important contribution to food security. DAD-IS is a crucial element of the Global Programme.

"The loss of animal breeds means that communities will be less able to respond to change. They will have a reduced capability to breed animals for characteristics such as resistance to disease, and have fewer options to respond to changes in consumer preferences," Keith Hammond warns. "But perhaps the greatest impact of the loss of animal genetic resources and failure to further develop adapted types is that it reduces overall global food security."

The DAD-IS databank currently contains facts and figures on over 5 000 breeds. Users can obtain information on breed features, population size, location, production and performance characteristics, as well as details of adaptive qualities and preliminary information describing the production environments in which these breeds are developing.

8 September 1998

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