Editor: Mike Nowosad
On May 19 and 20, 2004 a meeting of the Animal Genetic Resources Multi Stakeholder Steering Committee took place at the University of Saskatchewan with Dr. Gilles Saindon of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) and I as co-chairs.
Dr. Fred Silversides of AAFC was named as interim project leader. Dr. Saindon underscored AAFC’s commitment to the establishment of this program for the conservation of Canada’s farm animal genetic resources, that it had been approved as an outcome project of the AAFC management system and that a budget had been allocated. The Steering Committee had previously selected the University of Saskatchewan as the “hub” for the program.
A small working group of Keith Flaman and Stephen Moore from the Steering Committee and Peter Hunton and Robert Chicoine from the Foundation have been named to recommend on how the Steering Committee and the Foundation can best serve the new program.
At the meeting, the University of Saskatchewan renewed its commitment to serve as the “hub” and to provide office and laboratory space, in both the College of Agriculture and the College of Veterinary Medicine, for scientists who will be part of the program. In addition the two Colleges will be jointly bringing forward a graduate program in the conservation of animal genetic resources.
The concept of the “hub” and “spokes” structure was reaffirmed with the view being that spokes could include universities, government and non-government organizations etc.
It is anticipated that an implementation plan based on the business plan will be ready by late summer and that a workshop will be held in approximately 12 months.
To conclude, it is my opinion that this meeting represented a number of very positive steps. As Chair of the Foundation I take this opportunity to thank everyone for all their hard work, in so many ways, for bringing Canada to this point. In particular I wish to thank Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for their commitment to and support for this program.
The Foundation welcomes Bioniche Animal Health Canada Inc. as a Corporate member. Bioniche, located in Belleville Ontario plays a major role in the reproduction and health of many species of animals. Welcome!
The Foundation also welcomes a number of new Individual members. Now, is the time to join the Foundation and assist in the future of animal and poultry genetic resource developments in Canada.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
For Food Security
Heritage Livestock Threatened With Extinction
Artificial Insemination Boosts Milk Production
Italy - Animal Genetic Resources
DNA Technology & Conservation of Genetic Resources
Biodiversity For Food Security
SOURCE Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Press Release -May 20, 2004.
WASHINGTON and ROME -- "Biodiversity for Food Security" is the theme of this year's World Food Day, to be celebrated on 16 October 2004, FAO announced today.This year's World Food Day/TeleFood campaign will emphasize the importance of biodiversity for agriculture, food security and rural livelihoods, and especially for those populations living in marginal and harsh environments. Biological diversity comprises countless plants that feed and heal people, many crop varieties and aquatic species with specific nutritional characteristics, livestock species adapted to harsh environments, insects that pollinate fields and microorganisms that regenerate agricultural soils. Conserving and using biodiversity sustainably is key to feeding the around 800 million malnourished people in developing countries.
Biodiversity, essential for agriculture and food production, is threatened by urbanization, deforestation, pollution and the conversion of wetlands. Due to agricultural modernization, changes in diets and population density, humankind increasingly depends on a reduced amount of agricultural biological diversity for its food supplies, FAO said. A dozen species of animals provide 90% of the animal protein consumed globally and just four crop species provide half of plant-based calories in the human diet. FAO estimates that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity found in agricultural crops have been lost over the last century. Of 6300 animal breeds, 1350 are endangered or already extinct. This rapidly diminishing gene pool is cause for concern, FAO said.
Reduction of biodiversity entails a reduction of options for ensuring more diverse nutrition, enhancing food production, raising incomes, coping with environmental constraints and managing ecosystems. Recognizing, safeguarding and using the potential and diversity of nature is critical for food security and sustainable agriculture.
Conserve and use Global efforts to conserve plants and animals in gene banks are vital, FAO said. But it is also important to maintain biodiversity on farms and in nature, where it can evolve and adapt to changing conditions or competition from other species.
The FAO's International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which will enter into force on June 29, 2004, will play a crucial role in the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources and in future efforts to achieve sustainable agriculture and food security.
World Food Day marks the founding of FAO on 16 October 1945. It is regularly observed in about 150 countries. Funds collected through TeleFood campaigns and a public-awareness campaign including television shows, have enabled needy rural families to benefit from more than 1600 projects in 122 countries to increase their agricultural production and to feed themselves better.
Rare Breeds Canada (RBC) and the Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation (CFAGRF) recently announced the release of critical information on four of the most endangered of Canada’s livestock and poultry breeds, the Canadian Cow, Chantecler Chicken, Unimproved Bronze Turkey and the Tamworth Pig. Profiles of each of these breeds highlight data on the history, characteristics, population trends, distribution, genetics, breeders, and breed statistics. These breed profiles can be viewed at the RBC and CFAGRF web sites – www.rarebreedscanada.ca or www.cfagrf.com.
Many of Canada’s livestock breeds and poultry are dwindling in numbers and are at risk of extinction. The industrialization of agriculture and the use of highly productive/high input livestock breeds has forced some breeds that were once the mainstays of Canadian agriculture, out of the market place. About 60 once popular farm animals are listed on RBC’s livestock “priority list” of breeds most at risk. In addition about 40 breeds or strains of poultry and fowl are also at risk.
There is also evidence that some of our more popular breeds, crucial to Canada’s food supply, may be heading toward the same fate. Narrowing of the their genetic diversity through the selection and use of only the most productive male lines has narrowed the genetic diversity of some breeds to the extent that their effective population sizes are only a fraction of actual populations. This loss of genetic diversity is a troublesome matter as it increases the risk of genetic related health issues in livestock. Loss of genetic diversity within breeds and the loss of breeds poses serious issues related to food security and food safety that also need to be addressed.
The evaluation of the genetic resources of farm animals in Canada must be based on a thorough assessment available data. Breed profiles like those just released are required for all of our domestic livestock and poultry in order to properly evaluate the status of Canada’s farm animal genetic resources.
The Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation
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B.J. Van Doormaal and G.J. Kistenmaker from the Canadian Journal
of Animal Science Volume 83, Number 3, September 2003.
Written by: Helen Lammers-Helps, for the Agricultural Institute of Canada
In the past 30 years, the amount of milk produced by the average Canadian dairy cow has increased by an amazing 60%. Most of this increase can be attributed to improved genetics resulting from the use of artificial insemination (AI).
The first calf sired via artificial insemination was born in 1936. It was another 30 years before the use of AI gained acceptance on the farm. In 1975, half of the calves born on Canadian dairy farms were sired by AI. Ten years later, that number had risen to 75% where it has remained ever since.
For AI, only semen from the very best bulls is used. AI technology allows bulls to have many more offspring than through natural breeding. One bull in the AI program can have hundreds or thousands of progeny spread across many herds.
This genetic progress has been further enhanced through performance evaluations of the daughters in the different herds. In this way, genetically superior cows and bulls are identified and used in future breeding programs.
In 1995, the industry-funded Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) was established as the national genetic evaluation centre for dairy cattle in Canada. CDN also manages an external research budget of $400,000 which supports projects related to dairy cattle improvement conducted at universities and research centres across Canada. "This combination of industry-driven research support and genetic evaluations ensures that the needs of Canadian dairy producers are met so they can make the best genetic improvement decisions possible," says Brian VanDoormaal, CDN General Manager.
Artificial insemination was the first of many reproductive technologies, which have led to rapid genetic improvement in the dairy industry. More technologies are on the horizon. "I believe selection using genetic markers and other tools that look at the animal’s genetic make-up at the DNA level will become important advancements in the future," says Van Doormaal. "These tools will be combined with traditional evaluation procedures based on the analysis of daughter performance data to improve the accuracy of selection and therefore boost rates of genetic gain to even higher levels."
Many countries throughout the world have embarked on programs to conserve animal genetic resources. Italy for one, has set up a program with the following scope and activities:
More information on their activities can be obtained from the web at www.cons.dabi.org.
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The Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation protects your personal information by adhering to all legislative requirements with respect to privacy. We use your personal information to provide services and to keep you informed about CFAGRF activities and we may contact you from time to time regarding new CFAGRF initiatives. If at any time you wish to be removed from our data base simply contact us by phone at (613) 475-2701 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly accommodate your request.
by Dr. Y Liu/ Dr Pramod Mathur, Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement
DNA technology is increasingly associated with livestock conservation measures. DNA can be easily extracted from any tissue, blood or even hair roots and can be stored for very long periods of time. The techniques are becoming more efficient and relatively less expensive almost everyday. DNA samples are used by the livestock industries for detection of specific genes, parentage tests, purity tests, gene mapping and marker-assisted genetic evaluation etc. These samples can then be stored along with pedigree and performance records in the form of DNA banks for their future uses over the years to come. Developments in genomic technology and transgenic methods are also underway to develop methods for reliable integration of a gene or DNA segment into living animals. At current stage, DNA techniques can be used to study genetic variability within and between populations and estimating genetic distances. Molecular phylogeny techniques based on sequence data of DNA can give even deeper insight about the diversities of breeds and individual animals.
According to some researchers, one of the greatest threats to conserve endangered populations is our lack of knowledge about them. Genomic technology is a powerful tool for solving the mystery of life processes and can help in better understanding of the need for conservation of genetic resources. Currently, it helps in detection and evaulation of genes that are found in the endangered populations but are disappearing from the populations used by the livestock industry. Crosses between rare and commercially used breeds are often used to detect genes affecting traits of economic impotance. Once a gene from the endangered population is sequenced, it can be readily synthesized in laboratory even using today’s genomic technology. In future, it may provide complete new ways for conserving endangered populations. Several countries, especially in Europe, have taken active steps in using the DNA technology for these purposes but more efforts are needed in Canada to take advandage of this emerging potential.
This book provides an overview of developments in the conservation and sustainable utilization of Farm Animal Genetic Resources. It is based on presentations given at a conference on this subject co-organized by the British Society of Animal science, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the Sheep Trust.
Contents include, Conservation of farm animal genetic resources- a global view; The conservation of animal genetic resources-a European perspective; Conservation of farm animal genetic resources-a UK national view; Evolution of Heritage GeneBank into The Sheep Trust- conservation of native traditional sheep breeds that are commercially farmed, environmentally adapted and contribute to the economy of rural communities; The UK government policy on farm animal genetic resource conservation; Genetic variation within and among animal populations; Managing populations at risk; Experiences with plant GR conservation; Managing genetic resources in selected and conserved populations; The value of genome mapping for the genetic conservation of cattle; Conservation genetics of UK livestock from molecules to management; Role of reproductive biotechnologies- global perspective, current methods and success rates; Role of new and current methods in semen technology for genetic resource conservation; Oocytes and assisted reproduction technology; The integration of cloning by nuclear transfer in the conservation of animal genetic resources. Biosecurity strategies for conservation of farm animal genetic resources; The role of rare and traditional breeds in conservation- the Grazing Animal Project; Use of molecular genetic techniques- a case study on the Iberian pig; UK rare breeds-population genetic analyses and implications for applied conservation; A UK conservation success story- Longhorn cattle- a case study; Conserving animal genetic resources- making priority lists of British and Irish livestock breeds.
The Foundation has a wide range of “Information Sources” available in both English and French for individuals and organizations.
Preserving Farm Animal Genetic Diversity in Today’s High-Tech World (04/02)
The above sources of information can be obtained by contacting the Foundation at P.O. Box 3027, Brighton, Ontario K0K 1H0.