Minoan terracotta bull’s head, 14th-century BC (via Christie’s).Animal diseases cost cash-strapped African farmers about $300 billion a year in lost income and veterinary bills. Now scientists are proactively breeding livestock with defenses against these pests before they strike. Scientists from . . . CGIAR . . . are setting up a “preemptive breeding” program to develop livestock with resistance to potential widespread outbreaks of currently localized diseases to help reduce some of the losses that would occur.
‘Most of the world’s 38 billion livestock are kept in Africa where they face threats from diseases, reduced grazing land and a lack of vaccines. Livestock in Europe or the U.S., by contrast, are rarely lacking in food and medicine, says Okeyo Mwai, a livestock geneticist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya. “Most of the problems are in Africa where the costs of treating diseases are huge. As climate change makes diseases spread to new areas, that figure will rise astronomically,” Mwai says.CGIAR scientists presented their preemptive breeding strategy and new evidence of threats from climate change to the science advisory body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on June 4.
‘Current breeding strategies are inadequate because they are too slow to respond to disease outbreaks and climate challenges, the CGIAR researchers told the UNFCCC science advisory body. “The level of losses can be reduced if we proactively breed animals that are resistant and don’t require direct treatment,” Mwai says. . . .
‘For example, the Maasai tribe in Kenya have over many years bred sheep that are resistant to a deadly parasitic worm. The scientists are now working with these farmers to help introduce this breed to new areas that are suffering with high levels of the parasite. . . .The scientists . . . are planning a research program that will use genome editing to take genetic material from resistant breeds and paste it into susceptible ones. This technology will allow a much more “precise” approach to creating animals with desirable traits.
‘In contrast, traditional breeding methods “mix and match” genes by mating individuals “in the hope” of producing individuals beneficial traits, Mwai says. But sexual reproduction offers no guarantees that offspring will exhibit the desired traits of the parents.We need precision, not shotgun breeding, [Mwai] says.
Read the whole article by Natasha Gilbert in Scientific American, Preemptive genetics girds farmers for climate extremes and disease, 10 Jun 2015.
Read the new report, developed to inform decisions at the UN climate talks (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Bonn, Germany, in Jun 2015: Climate and livestock disease: Assessing the vulnerability of agricultural systems to livestock pests under climate change scenarios, Jun 2015, Working Paper No. 116, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), by ILRI scientists Delia Grace, Bernard Bett, Johanna Lindahl and Timothy Robinson.
View more CCAFS-published materials for UN climate talks in Bonn, Jun 2015 highlighting critical agricultural issues for the UN climate talks.
Filed under: ABS, Animal Breeding, Article, Biotechnology, CGIAR, Climate Change, CRP4, CRP7, Disease Control, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds Tagged: CCAFS, Delia Grace, Okeyo Mwai, Preventive breeding, SBSTA, Scientific American, UNFCCC