Regional issues on animal genetic resources: trends, policies and networking in Europe

Mäki-Tanila, A.; Hiemstra, S.J.


European countries are individually and in collaboration carrying out active work on animal genetic resources (AnGR). The region has a very good starting point for work on AnGR: The breed concept was developed in Europe; current European mainstream breeds are derived from local breeds and, in many species, have further formed the core of the international breeds; there has always been very active research in Europe on farm animal genetics and breeding, including sustainable utilization and management of variation. Since the 1970s and 1980s many European countries have been paying attention to local breeds and have saved many of them from total extinction. In quite a few countries, the conservation work has been supported by cryopreservation. In the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) coordinated process, Europe has actively contributed to assessing the State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources and will continue to implement the Global Plan of Action. There are now national action plans in most of the European countries. The European consumption of animal products has changed very little over recent decades. At the same time, production has become very intensive. Among other driving forces, the development of agriculture is steered by the EU policies. The last decade has seen new kind of thinking and measures directed towards an overall consideration of rural development. This has given room for the revitalization of many local breeds. The aim is to have schemes that promote the self-sustainability of local breeds. The EU also has a very ambitious research programme to support these aims while enhancing the overall sustainable production and management of biological resources. The European Regional Focal Point for Animal Genetic Resources (ERFP) is a common forum for the coordinators of European national programmes on AnGR. There are also many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the animal sector. These NGOs and networks are most relevant to raising awareness about the importance of values of AnGR and in enhancing activities that contribute to conservation and sustainable use of AnGR.