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Research Project: National Animal Germplasm Program

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Title: Gene banks a mechanism for harnessing animal genetic resources for food security

Author
item Blackburn, Harvey
item PAIVA, SAMUEL - Embrapa

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2014
Publication Date: 7/29/2014
Citation: Blackburn, H.D., Paiva, S. 2014. Gene banks a mechanism for harnessing animal genetic resources for food security. Meeting Proceedings. Ann.Symposium of the Brazilian Society of Animal Science. July 29 - Aug 1 2014, Aracaju, SE Brazil.

Interpretive Summary: During the past decade the need for increased animal protein has been identified. By-in-large increased demand has been met by developing countries increasing the number of animals in the national herds. However, when the increase in animal products is expressed on a per animal basis a disappointing picture emerges. In general for the least developed countries productivity per animal has decreased for ruminants in general and specifically for small ruminants. The lack of growth in production efficiency for ruminants is of concern due to their important role among smallholders and as we look toward trying to adapt animals to cope with climate change. Chickens and swine on the other hand do show increased productivity, but it must be assumed that much of this growth is coming from the establishment of intensive production systems that utilize higher levels of management, nutrition and specialized genetics. When productivity per animal of least developed countries is compared to Latin America the impact of increased levels of animal management, feeding and breeding practices is evident; underscoring the importance of technology development and transfer. For all production systems and national conditions livestock producers at the strategic level must address decisions concerning breed selection and selection strategies. Both of these decision points require access to a variety of genetic diversity. However, maintaining diversity for less than optimal production is a costly endeavor. This paper explores how gene banks can be used to facilitate increased productivity and be useful in identifying genetic resources capable of coping with climate change.

Technical Abstract: Increased productivity for livestock is needed to sustainably meet growing consumer demands. Climate change places another layer of complexity on the raising animal productivity. To meet these challenges a wide variety of genetic resources is needed. But maintaining this variety in-situ can be costly and may slow down progress in meeting the goal of increased productivity. Gene banks can serve as a reservoir of genetic diversity for researchers and the industry to use as appropriate. This paper illustrates how a national gene bank has been used to capture and facilitate the use of diverse genetic resources. It provides several examples of how gene banks might be useful in addressing productivity issues that are associated with climate change. The experiences to date indicate gene banks can serve a larger role in preserving genetic resources then was once thought and this in turns creates opportunities for the livestock industry to move forward in its use of genetic resources.