September 7, 2007

Countries Agree on Plan to Save Animals

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland (AP) - One hundred and eight countries have agreed on an action plan to save endangered livestock breeds, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.

The move follows warnings from scientists earlier this week that rare breeds are becoming extinct at a rate of one every month, taking with them precious genetic material that could be lost forever.

Delegates attending an intergovernmental meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland, unanimously agreed to create a global database of livestock breeds and their population levels.

Countries will also be encouraged to find ways of maintaining endangered stocks through sustainable use, and to set up gene banks "as a backup system" in case breeds disappear, Beate Scherf of FAO's Animal Genetic Resources Group said.

The U.N. agency estimates that one in five breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry are at risk because of farmers switching to high-yield animals such as Holstein-Friesian cows and White Leghorn chickens.

Scientists say rare breeds carry unique traits, such as resistance to disease or extreme weather conditions, which could become increasingly important as a result of climate change.


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