14 June 2007The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organizations (FAO) warned today that the ramping up of large-scale industrial livestock production which focuses on a limited range of breeds is the single largest threat to global farm animal diversity, with one breed becoming extinct monthly. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organizations (FAO) warned today that the ramping up of large-scale industrial livestock production which focuses on a limited range of breeds is the single largest threat to global farm animal diversity, with one breed becoming extinct monthly. A new report entitled “The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,” presented to the FAO at a meeting of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, said that skyrocketing global demand for meat, milk and eggs had led to the heavy reliance on animals which have been intensively bred. According to the study, based on information from 169 countries, the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that genetic material can be moved with ease around the world. FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Muller characterized the report as a “wake-up call to the world,” and stressed the need to bolster the global food supply by maintaining and deploying a wide array of genetic resources, which are “vital and irreplaceable.” One breed of livestock has become extinct every month over the past seven years, and 20 per cent of the world’s cattle, goat, pig, horse and poultry breeds are in danger of annihilation, according to the report. The developing world will be the main site of breed diversity loss in this century, it cautioned. Among the most frequently used breeds of cattle, genetic diversity is being undercut by the use of only a few very popular sires for breeding. “Effective management of animal genetic diversity is essential to global food security, sustainable development and the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Irene Hoffman, Chief of FAO’s Animal Production Service. The report called for improved conservation programmes to prevent the crowding out of local breeds and for investments in personnel and technical facilities to effectively manage the problem.