Ref. :  000022864
Date :  2005-11-30
Language :  English
Home Page / The whole website
fr / es / de / po / en

Science and global livestock

Globally, the livestock sector contributes 1.5 percent to GDP and is one of the few agricultural sub-sectors that keep pace with overall economic expansion. Growth is being driven by a radical process of industrialization in which scales of operation expand and livestock is separated from supporting land used for growing feed. At the other end of the scale, small-scale livestock provides critical livelihood support to some 400 million people living in extreme poverty.

In a world where a growing number of consumers and producers have instant access to relevant information and can voice their opinions, while others can barely feed their families, science has a moral mandate to guide the expanding and rapidly changing global livestock sector so as to minimize its negative impacts while maximizing the potential benefits. The challenges facing science today include "old" issues, such as increasing feed conversion efficiency and nutritive value of animal diets, which remain pertinent, but also a range of "new" issues that have broader social implications - such as the impact of livestock on the environment or the use of often hotly debated biotechnology applications.

Challenge: Livestock in an urbanizing world

By the year 2010, half of the world's population is expected to be living in cities. Higher life expectancy and reduced birth rates in cities contribute to an aging population. Food consumption patterns are more varied in urban environments, with the emerging urban middle class consuming a richer diet. The urban poor, meanwhile, continue to face the challenge of finding enough food and of keeping, slaughtering and marketing animals under often unsanitary conditions.

How can animal science assist the urbanizing world? First, through intensification of production: continued research into animal nutrition and feeding and animal genetics still promises substantial gains in feed conversion efficiency. Intensification means industrialization of livestock systems, particularly for pigs and poultry. At the same time, we must avoid regional concentration of livestock production and design effective waste management systems to protect the environment from pollution.

Modern industrial animal production is based on a narrowing genetic base - especially in dairy animals, poultry and swine - which carries the risk of inbreeding depression over the long term. Using a small number of genotypes may also lead to spreading recessive genes responsible for undesirable characteristics. Science can help improve methods for molecular characterization and identify the essential genetic variation so as to establish priorities for genetic conservation. Scientists can also help in responding to the increasingly sophisticated demands of the middle class consumer for low-fat, high-protein food and for preventing the growing tendency towards obesity, especially among the young.

Finally, the "animal welfare paradox": the demand for standardized, safe food may require management systems considered by some consumers to be unnatural or cruel. Animal welfare considerations must be based on sound science and objective research. Practical applications of science in animal welfare include designing environments that reduce disease, injury and death, management of animal social behaviour to reduce stress.
Challenge: Livestock in areas with weak links to markets

Environmental impacts

About 29 percent of the world's land surface is used for livestock production, either by permanent pasture for grazing or croplands for animal fodder and feed. Of major concern to policymakers in developed and developing countries are the growing "negative environmental externalities" of more intensive production, mainly pollution of soil and water caused by waste from commercial livestock units.
Some parts of the world are still isolated, sparsely populated and poorly connected to markets. In these environments, livestock production is practiced by small-scale farmers reliant on rain-fed mixed agriculture or pastoralism - around 200 million people currently depend on mobile pastoralism, making use of natural pastures in dry-lands. The natural resource base in many marginal areas is degraded and human carrying capacity is close to its upper limit. As human populations are still increasing, alternative ways of income generation need to be developed to allow some people to move out of livestock production.

In areas where market signals are weak, livestock production is mainly resource-driven, and weather, disease and social conflict constitute major sources of risk for livestock keepers. Innovations that stabilize and safeguard production and enhance the resilience of livelihoods - e.g. through diversification - should have higher priority than interventions that simply increase production.

How can science assist? First, by improving temporal and spatial predictions of feed (and food) availability, and by promoting institutional mechanisms for timely de- and restocking, as well as novel livestock insurance schemes. Research can also help enhance the nutritional value for livestock of crop components not suited for human consumption, develop low-cost technologies to prolong shelf life of livestock products to allow them to be consumed or sold throughout the year, and integrate customary management of land and water with formal law.

Challenge: Protecting animal and human health

Livestock is an important host of disease agents, which potentially threatens food security and human health. Some of these diseases spread rapidly across borders and continents as well as between species, especially if live animals move over large distances.

Globalization is accelerating the frequency, speed and geographical scale of transboundary animal disease events (witness the current avian influenza epidemic) and facilitating the establishment of pathogens in hitherto unaffected environments. The transboundary nature of these diseases and their potential to overcome species barriers and to affect humans poses serious challenges that extend beyond the livestock sector and demand international cooperation. Endemic and "forgotten" diseases, such as tuberculosis and chronic parasitic diseases often go unperceived, yet impair production and can affect human health.

Science has a vital role to play in providing better understanding of infection and disease transmission, in developing fast, accurate and robust diagnostics, and in monitoring and remote sensing of ecological factors that encourage pathogens to emerge. Rapid communication of information about disease outbreaks, and education of field personnel are also important in international efforts to improve surveillance, detection and rapid response. Research is also needed to develop vaccines that are safe and have a long shelf life, and anti-viral drugs which, when incorporated in vaccines, provide almost immediate protection while the immune system responds.

An unwelcome offshoot of scientific developments in medicine and human health is the growing potential for bio-terrorism. Cell or media cultures for the propagation of potential pathogens affecting plants, animals, and humans are common in laboratories in many parts of the world. Their "weaponisation" is more difficult. While we should not be overly worried about this, the only way to deal with the potential threat is through transparency and international cooperation.

A new agenda

In the past, agricultural science was expected to provide productivity-enhancing technology. The science agenda today is much broader, encompassing equity, food safety and environmental sustainability. It is also becoming clear that research - and its relevance and impact - are determined largely by factors outside the research domain, including the changing roles of the public and private sectors, biotechnology and information technology, intellectual property rights and the increased interconnectedness of agriculture with world markets.

Challenge: Biotechnology in livestock development

Public perception of "biotechnology" is strongly influenced by what is known or believed about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Conflicting information - and real or perceived withholding of information - all lead to confusion about the differences between different biotechnologies and their long-term ecological and health effects. There is an urgent need for objective and informed public discussion on biotechnology, and science-based protocols to determine the level of safety or the level of danger arising from their use.

For biotechnology to be used well, a number of concerns must be addressed. For example, it is possible that loss of genetic diversity may occur as high yielding breeds are chosen over those with other genetic traits. This is an age-old feature of livestock selection, but biotechnology methods may hasten the process. While encouraging selection for high yield, countries should have in place a policy for genetic conservation. There is little evidence, so far, of gene flow between cultivated plants and their wild relatives, but the absence of evidence is not proof of the contrary. Careful monitoring is required when new breeds and varieties are introduced into new environments.

Consumers have also expressed concern about the direct effects on humans of eating animals that have been fed on GM feed. Trials to date suggest that this concern is unfounded for the products currently in use, but it will continue to be raised with each new change introduced. Long-term monitoring for positive and negative nutritional effects is essential. Ethical questions also arise in connection with stem cell research and "pharming", where animals are genetically modified to produce substances of use to science or medical application.

Science can facilitate sustainable, equitable, and safe development of the livestock sector through innovation in a wide range of fields. For society, one of the main challenges will be to find mechanisms for differentiating between technical feasibility and social desirability. As science advances, so do quality assurance and quality control standards which, if taken to the highest level possible, would eliminate large numbers of livestock keepers from the market. Given the growing interconnectedness of economies, we must recognize that national choices have international implications.

For science, perhaps the greatest challenge is to find ways to communicate with its clients, particularly those which do not offer strong economic incentives, and with the public at large.

Rate this content
Average of 109 ratings 
Rating 2.36 / 4 MoyenMoyenMoyenMoyen
Same author:
 flecheIs the planet approaching "peak fish"? Not so fast, study says
 flecheForests and trees are key for a sustainable future
 flecheProtecting the right to a childhood
 flecheDealing with drought
 flecheMexico’s Guatemalan refugees: where are they now?
 flecheSouth Sudan famine ebbs, but situation still desperate as hunger spreads
 flecheUsing real-time satellite data to track water productivity in agriculture
 fleche108 million people in food crisis countries face severe acute food insecurity – situation worsening
 fleche10 questions – How much do you know about forests and energy?
 flecheBuilding greener cities: nine benefits of urban trees
 fleche10 million hectares a year in need of restoration along the Great Green Wall
 flecheThe state of food and agriculture 2016
 flecheThe State of the World’s Forests 2016
 flecheNutrition and Food Systems
 flecheThe People’s Manual on the Guidelines on Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests
 flecheThe role of pulses in nutrition-sensitive agriculture
 fleche2015–2016 El Niño - Early action and response for agriculture, food security and nutrition
 flecheCommunity-based forestry can be a driving force in boosting sustainability and people’s livelihoods
 flecheFreebee: How bees can help raise food security of 2 billion smallholders at no cost
 flechePETROCARIBE: 10 years of struggle against hunger and poverty
 flecheSoils are endangered, but the degradation can be rolled back
 flecheSyria: Better rains improve wheat production, but food security situation remains bleak
 flecheA body of evidence: What climate change implies for global food security and trade
 flecheFAO hails G20 focus on building sustainable food systems and reducing food loss and waste
 flecheAgriculture bears major brunt of disaster impacts, new report says
 flecheAgriculture key to Caribbean food security and coping with climate change
 flecheLakes and rivers key to livelihoods of millions
 flecheGenetic diversity a hidden tool in coping with climate change
 flecheEbola leaves hundreds of thousands facing hunger in three worst-hit countries
 flecheThe State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014
 flecheNew roadmap for boosting small-scale and family forest producers
 fleche“Top Ten” list of food-borne parasites released
 flecheFAO Food Price Index dips for third consecutive month
 flecheCountries recognize vital role of small-scale fishers
 flecheFAO and National Geographic announce collaboration exploring future of food
 flecheGlobal Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth opens in The Hague:
High-level gathering focuses on identifying solutions for healthy oceans

 flecheAngola, Brazil and FAO sign South-South Cooperation agreement
 flecheFAO calls for increased vigilance and preparedness in neighboring countries
 flecheWorld food prices stay high, but steady
 flecheWorld Food Situation
 flecheThe multiple dimensions of food security
 flecheBiofuel development should not compromise food security, says CFS
 flecheSustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition
 flecheFood waste harms climate, water, land and biodiversity – new FAO report
 flecheGlobal food prices continue to drop
 flecheFAO highlights the potential of South-South cooperation
 flecheQuinoa, an Andean crop that can play a significant role in eradicating hunger
 flecheFood systems for better nutrition
 flecheWorld cereal production set to reach historic high in 2013
 flecheLinking farmers to moving markets
 flecheForest products critical to fight hunger - including insects
 flecheNo green economy without blue economy, says FAO
 flecheInternational Day of Forests 2013
 flecheFood waste is a growing concern next to food losses
 flecheThe State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012
 flecheGlobally almost 870 million chronically undernourished - new hunger report
 flecheUN launches new programme to empower rural women and girls
 flecheRecurring droughts highlight need to better manage water resources, safeguard food security
 flecheImpacts of Bioenergy on Food Security
 flecheFAO Food Price Index up 6 percent
 flecheRural Women and the Millennium Development Goals
 flecheMatch Day Against Hunger (31st March -- 2nd April 2012)
 flecheConsensus reached on guidelines for land tenure and access to fisheries and forests
 flecheProfessional Football against Hunger 2012 campaign kicks off
 flecheWorld Water Day 2012
 flecheFAO-EC project to promote climate-smart farming
 flecheCorruption undermining land access, development
 flecheTen proposals to safeguard the ocean
 flecheWorld hunger report 2011: High, volatile prices set to continue
 flecheWomen – key to food security
FAO at work 2010-2011

 flecheRome emergency meeting rallies to aid Horn of Africa
 flecheAnnan warns hunger could become permanent disaster
 flecheClimate change: major impacts on water for farming
 flecheGood forest governance key for climate change schemes
 flecheNew humanitarian food security platform launched
 flecheForests and climate change in the Mediterranean
 flechePotentially catastrophic climate impacts on food production over the long-term
 flecheReducing poverty by growing fuel and food
 flecheFish consumption reaches all-time high
 flechePolicy guide for countries hit hard by high food prices
 flecheFAO backs indigenous people
 flecheMore countries taking action to safeguard animal genetic diversity
 flecheOne trillion food import bill as prices rise
 flecheAfrica crop tool launched: Interactive 43-nation guide on what to plant, when and where
 flecheCrop biodiversity: use it or lose it - FAO launches 2nd State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture report
 flecheForest biodiversity at risk
 fleche22 countries in protracted crisis
 flecheFirst global guidelines for aquaculture certification finalized
 flecheGrowing food in greener cities
 flecheFood price volatility a major threat to food security, but no indication of a global food crisis
 fleche925 million in chronic hunger worldwide
 flecheThe safe use of wastewater in agriculture offers multiple benefits
 flecheFAO launches NASA-developed fire monitoring system
 flecheFAO provides free access to statistics treasure trove
 flecheSome regulation of food futures markets desirable
 flecheNew market access rules, economic crisis affecting seafood industry
 flecheFact sheet: The international fish trade and world fisheries
 flecheNew FAO report assesses dairy greenhouse gas emissions
 flecheWorld deforestation decreases, but remains alarming in many countries
 flecheAfrica organic export drive
 flecheTowards a more sustainable livestock sector - FAO report analyzes the rapidly changing global livestock production
 flecheHigh tea prices - Better weather conditions mean prices should stabilise in 2010
 flecheGroundbreaking treaty on illegal fishing approved
 flecheFAO calls for world hunger strike against hunger
 flecheWorld Summit on Food Security (November 16-18 2009 - Rome, Italy)
 flechePromoting climate-smart agriculture - Report explores mutual benefits, trade-offs in tackling hunger and climate change
 flecheEconomic crisis is devastating for the world's hungry : 1.02 billion hungry people in 2009
 fleche2050: A third more mouths to feed
 flecheFAO initiates debate on declaration for World Summit on Food Security - Calls for eradication of hunger by 2025 and for more investment in agriculture
 flecheOne sixth of humanity undernourished - more than ever before
 flecheAgriculture more resilient to global crisis than other sectors
 flecheAgriculture is essential for facing climate change
 flecheLand acquisitions in Africa pose risks for poor
 flecheFood prices remain high in developing countries
 flecheStudy shows bioenergy benefits for rural poor
 flecheChina and FAO sign historic $30 million deal
 flecheNew FAO food price database launched
 flecheState of the World’s Forests 2009
 flecheVirtual Water: How much water does it take to produce...?
 flecheForests and the global economy: 10 million new jobs
 flecheFAO's Kevern discusses the implications of climate change for fisheries and aquaculture (State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture" report)
 flecheWorld fisheries must prepare for climate change
 flecheDespite bumper 2008 harvests, high prices persist in many poor countries
 flecheFarming must change to feed the world : FAO expert urges more sustainable approach
 flecheVers un plan d’action mondial pour l’eau - Réunion internationale à Rome pour préparer le Forum mondial de l’eau
 fleche"Food should be a national security issue" - Interview with M. Chipeta on the food crisis in Eastern Africa
 flecheNumber of hungry people rises to 963 million
 flecheLe rôle de l’Afrique dans la réduction des gaz à effet de serre
 flecheDiouf appeals for new world agricultural order
 flecheFAO Chief appeals to Obama to help end world hunger
 flecheFinancial crash could deepen food crisis - protectionism, less aid not a solution.
 flecheWorld Food Day stresses climate change and bioenergy effects on poor
 flecheReviewing biofuel policies and subsidies - Annual report weighs opportunities and risks of biofuels
 flecheIndigenous peoples threatened by climate change
 flecheNew global soil database
 flecheClimate change will have strong impact on fisheries
 flecheLand degradation on the rise: one fourth of the world’s population affected, says new study

 flecheSichuan quake: $6bn damage to agriculture
 flecheFood Summit calls for more investment in agriculture - and final declaration
 flecheThe world only needs 30 billion dollars a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger
 flecheHigh food prices: supporting the poor and re-launching agriculture - June Summit on food security offers historic chance to address world food challenges
 flecheFood prices remain high despite higher output
 flecheBiodiversity to curb world's food insecurity
 flecheFAO Director-General responds to criticism by Senegalese President
 flecheDiouf: world must seize chance to boost agriculture
 flecheLarge-scale biofuel production may increase marginalization of women

 flecheA major boost to preparations for the FAO Summit on food security: Brazilian President Lula confirms his presence
 flecheHigh-Level Conference on World Food Security: "the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy" (3-5 June 2008, FAO Headquarters - Rome)
 flechePoorest countries’ cereal bill continues to soar, governments try to limit impact
 flecheEBRD-FAO report: Fighting food inflation
 flecheUsing oil export revenues to boost public investment in agriculture
 flecheOpening of seed vault in Norway
 flecheSignificant increase in world cereal production forecast for 2008, but prices remain high
 flecheRome UN Agencies urge immediate climate action to avert hunger
 flecheCall for more strategic approach to mountain development
 flecheConverting wood waste into pellets to reduce greenhouse gases
 flecheLaunch of an interactive web-based platform in support of agriculture and rural development
 flecheHarnessing the Web to speed rural development
 flecheDramatic changes in global meat production could increase risk of diseases

 fleche The state of the world’s animal genetic ressources for food and agriculture
 flecheGlobal plan of action for animal genetic resources adopted
 flecheClimate change likely to increase risk of hunger
 flecheReport "OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2007-2016"
 flecheGrowing bio-fuel demand underpinning higher agriculture prices
 flechePoverty in fishing communities poses serious risks
 flecheThe State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2006
 flecheNew trade rules expected to benefit some developing countries
 flecheAppropriate trade policy reform can lead to poverty reduction
 flecheFAO urges action to cope with increasing water scarcity
 flecheFAO confident UK authorities can handle bird flu outbreak
 flecheFAO urges food aid reform
 flecheEradicating world hunger: taking stock ten years after the World Food Summit
 flecheAgricultural heritage: legacy from the past, passport for the future
(Forum highlights importance of family agriculture for sustainable development)

 flecheDeforestation causes global warming
 flecheCaucasus, Balkans at high risk for deadly H5N1 virus
 flecheNew focus needed for Doha Round

 flecheWorld Congress on Communication for Development
 flecheForests and climate change
 flecheInternational rural development conference in Porto Alegre
 flecheEscalating bird flu crisis jeopardizes global poultry trade prospects
 flecheFAO and the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals : The road ahead
 flecheNew FAO report on agricultural trade and poverty
 flecheThe State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005
 flecheHunger slows progress towards Millennium Development Goals
 flecheThe digital divide continues to hinder development in rural areas
 flecheGlobal influenza meeting sets key action steps

 flecheNew global agricultural census under way
 flecheAfricans meet to improve food safety on the continent
 flecheMalawi facing serious food crisis
 flecheAgriculture and intercultural dialogue
 flecheFunding shortfall could worsen food crisis in Niger
 flecheThe Kyoto process: an additional opportunity for the poorest countries?
 flecheWest African food crisis looming
 flecheJoining forces to halve hunger
 flecheEducation for rural people, a crucial step towards the Millennium Goals
 flecheClimate change could increase the number of hungry people
 flecheArmed conflicts leading cause of world hunger emergencies
 flecheSuccess stories in forest management
 flecheAfghanistan: 14 000 grain silos to be distributed to farmers
 flecheWorsening food situation in parts of the Sahel
 fleche23 sub-Saharan African countries need food assistance
 flecheBenefits and risks of globalized livestock markets
 flecheL'élevage à l'heure de la mondialisation
 flecheDiouf, Jacques
 flecheFAO assessing damage in countries devastated by tsunamis in South Asia
 flecheEuropean Commission and FAO extend food security programme
 flecheHunger costs millions of lives and billions of dollars - FAO hunger report
 flecheFAO Council adopts Right to Food Guidelines
 flecheFAO calls for $60 million for urgent agricultural relief in 14 emergencies worldwide
 flecheInvolving the rural poor in development programmes
 flecheAgricultural database
 flecheThe future of agriculture depends on biodiversity
 flecheSustainable development in mountain regions: the path ahead
 flecheWealth and poverty continue to coexist in Europe - Diouf
 flecheWealth and poverty continue to coexist in Europe - Diouf
 flecheThe challenge of sustainable mountain development
 flecheTreaty on biodiversity to become law
 flecheUnited Nations agencies applaud new political focus on hunger and rural poverty
 flecheBSE controls in many countries are still not sufficient
 flecheSouth-South Cooperation: creating alliances to fight hunger
 flecheFAO reports a setback in the war against hunger
 flecheNorth Korea urgently needs food aid
 flecheWorking together for an International Alliance against Hunger
 flecheOnline scientific information on food and agriculture for poorest countries
 fleche$6 million project for one of the poorest regions in Afghanistan
 flecheFood crisis in parts of Ethiopia remains critical
 flecheSustainable forest management: tangible achievements needed
 flecheSeeds and tools for nearly 2 million farmers in Angola
 flecheFAO sees no alternative to multilateral trade talks
 flecheLa FAO réclame davantage d'aide alimentaire pour plusieurs pays d'Afrique sub-saharienne
 flecheWorld agriculture towards 2030 - Final study published
 flecheDe la nourriture pour penser : promouvoir l'éducation pour les populations rurales
 flecheWorld agriculture: towards 2015/2030
Keywords   go