Over the last few decades the concept of selective breeding has increasingly led to a serious problem of inbreeding among farm animals, owing to the emphasis that artificial insemination places on small gene pools, with the aim of improving disease resistance, meat concentration in the body, and other animal characteristics.
In order to combat this trend in the long term and provide a more comprehensive methodology for biodiversity studies, the NextGen project has gathered massive quantities of genetic data pertaining to the entire genetic makeup of various cattle, sheep and goat breeds around the world.
1. Given the importance of pigs, poultry and various other farm animals as a food source for the majority of peoples around the world, what was the scientific reasoning for not including them in the project?
2. How many new breeding programmes have been developed during the course of the project in respect of each of the three species involved, and how many of these programmes are already being applied in practice in the EU?
3. Has the Commission, through its agencies, granted financial support to any farms within the EU which are aiming to modernise their animal husbandry programmes in order to tackle the issues outlined above?
1. The Nextgen project, funded under the 7th Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities, (FP7) was submitted in response to call topic KBBE-2009-1-1-03, which was a call for Specific International Cooperation Actions (SICAs) targeting the optimisation of methods to maintain farm animal biodiversity. The project intended to develop optimized methodologies for preserving ruminants’ biodiversity in the context of whole genome data availability and focused on specific cooperation actions in Morocco, Uganda and Iran. It was selected for funding in accordance with the evaluation procedures set out in the FP7 ‘Rules of Submission of Proposals and the related evaluation, selection and award Procedures’, with the assistance of independent experts, in order to ensure that only proposals of the highest quality are funded.
2. The Nextgen project did not aim primarily to develop new breeding schemes but to generate tools and methodologies for the characterisation and conservation of genetic diversity. The success of this research project is reflected in a number of peer-reviewed publications(1).
3. Under the rural development framework, support can be provided for the conservation and for the sustainable use of and development of genetic resources. Some EUR 579 million (public expenditure) are planned to be spent for this purpose in the Union over the 2014 — 2020 programming period, through programmes managed by the Member States.
(1) Results and datasets are publicly available via the project’s website (nextgen.epfl.ch/).