15 September 1998
30% of world livestock breeds could disappear

THE loss of large numbers of domesticated livestock breeds could create serious food problems in countries already balanced on a survival knife-edge, according to the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The United Nations organisation believes 30% of the worlds domestic animal breeds are at risk of extinction. Those animals supply about 30% of the worlds total food requirements.

The threat to indigenous breeds has come from the interbreeding – ironically, at the suggestion of organisations like the FAO – of domestic breeds with high-yielding “exotic” stock. Second, third and fourth generations of the crossbred livestock have been unable to survive harsh local conditions.

In India, for example, the FAO estimates that 50% of indigenous goats face extinction.

The FAO has established the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) to help collect and collate the necessary information concerning the worlds genetic pool for farm animal stocks. The system can link farmers with scientists via the internet.

It contains information on farm breeds, population size, location, production characteristics as well as adaptive qualities.

  • Financial Times 15/09/98 page 40