Muscat: Every week, the world loses valuable animal species, and without adequate action it is estimated that more than 2,000 domestic animal breeds could be lost over the next 20 years, according to the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre (OAPGRC).
In response to this situation, leading domestic and international scientists will gather in Muscat later this month to discuss conserving animal genetic resources; food security and traceability; bio-banking; agribusiness; and the impact of climate change on animal genetic resources.
Scheduled to be held February 23 – 24 at Sultan Qaboos University, The Regional Conference for Animal Genetic Resources Conservation is being hosted by OAPGRC, in collaboration with Sultan Qaboos University and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
“It’s widely acknowledged that the world’s animal genetic diversity is under serious threat, and the reported rate of breed extinctions is of deep concern to scientists and farmers alike,” pointed out Dr. Nadiya Al Saady, OAPGRC Executive Director.
Dr. Al Saady added, “What is just as worrying is that unrecorded animal genetic resources are being lost before their characteristics can be studied and potential evaluated. This paints a scary picture of the future, with as many as 30 to 50 per cent of all species potentially heading for extinction by mid-century. And extinction is forever. Biotechnology will not be able to regenerate breeds if they are lost.”
Domestic farm animals are crucial for food and agriculture, providing 30 to 40 per cent of the agricultural sector’s global economic value, according to the OAPGRC. Some two billion people – one-third of the world’s population – depend, at least partly, on farm animals for their livelihoods. And as incomes rise, particularly in developing countries, diets become diversified, with the addition of more animal protein. Experts believe meat, milk and egg production will need to more than double over the next two decades to meet this growing demand.
Dr. Al Saady added, “Strenuous efforts to understand, prioritise and protect the world’s animal genetic resources for food and agriculture are required. And it is this shared concern and commitment that’s bringing experts from around the world to Muscat this month.”
The full potential of animal genetic resources is far from being realised, suggests Dr. Al Saady, and they face serious erosion in both developed and developing countries. This is being caused by changes in production systems, disease outbreaks, poor breeding policies and practices, inappropriate introduction of exotic breeds and climate change, to name but a few.
“In simple terms, these losses matter and affect every one of us,” said Dr. Al Saady.
“Ecologists, zoologists and other scientists believe that, without urgent steps to stem the losses, we are facing tipping points from which we may never look back or recover.
“It’s time, and we need renewed efforts and commitments for the protection, sustainable use, development and conservation of our remaining animal genetic resources, before they are lost forever. I sincerely hope that the conference can be used as a springboard for action,” noted Dr. Al Saady.