July 09, 2018

Genetic Improvement in Developing Countries: Mission Impossible at WCAP

Genetic improvement in developing countries: mission impossible?

By: Anne Zinn

WCAP Session 5 addressed the genetic improvement in developing countries and the many challenges that face advancement. The first presentation was given by Raphael Mrode, PhD Principal Scientist in Nairobi, and outlined the developing innovative digital technology and genomic approaches a to livestock genetic improvement in various developing countries. Digit cal systems have been used in projects such as the African Dairy Genetic Gains in Eastern Africa to capture data and assist in overcoming huge organizational infrastructures and costs. Yachun Wang, Professor at China Agricultural University, then presented on the channel gets and opportunities for genetic improvement of cattle production in China, explaining a the Chinese dairy breeding system and a genomic selection platform used since 2012. 
To conclude the session, Muhammad Moaeen-ud-Din, Associate Professor at the PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, presented results of a study on the use of AFLP markers to ascertain Red Sindhi cattle identity for a genetic improvement program in Rawalpindi, and Alessandra Stella presented on genomics for farm animal adaptation in developing countries. Overall, it is crucial for all various industry stakeholders to keep the public opinion and varying resources in mind when moving forward with research and development. 
WCAP Session 6: A picture is worth a thousand words - challenges in communication between agriculture and the public
Write-Up: The final session of the 2018 WCAP addressed the challenges in communication between agriculture and the public. To begin with, Gese Busch of Freie Universität Bozen outlined the opportunities between livestock farming and the policy involved; specifically, Busch emphasized the importance of hearing the consumers’ concerns and addressing various issues in the industry proactively.  Following Busch, Maria Hötzel of the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina presented on the importance of animal welfare in emerging countries, using Brazil as the example. Hötzel explained that studies on the Brazilian public indicate preferences for productions systems that allow animals to move, provide good care, and high quality feeding versus the view of industry stakeholders, which tend to be more production oriented and focused on biological functioning. This growling recognition of the relevance of animal welfare is changing industry discourse and decisions; Hötzel outlined the implications for the sustainability of the Brazilian livestock industry and potential paths to address animal welfare in this scenario. 
To finish off the afternoon, Glynn Tonsor, Professor at Kansas State University, presented on the nuanced challenges of working with a hard-science while balancing public opinion and scientific advancements. Tonsor highlighted the complex set of economic aspects of animal welfare discussions in the United States and the fact that many heated conversations are occurring surrounding how meat is produced and how the public think meat ought to be procured. Therefore, Tonsor concluded, the livestock and meat institutions would do well to recognize the animal welfare challenge and actively seek solutions.