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Rare Breeds International Biological Impact Study

The transfer of breeding livestock between countries pays little regard to the conservation of genetic integrity of native farm animal genetic resources (AnGR). The possibility of importing animals of ‘exotic’ breeds is controlled by meeting quarantine regulations (i.e. veterinary permits) and the presence of private commercial and/or speculative interest. In some cases a refusal or delay of permits may act as a trade barrier, but the effect of imported germplasm on the native and locally-adapted AnGR of a country or region is taken into account in very few cases.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is devoted to the conservation of all biological diversity, which includes diversity within species, and promotes in-situ conservation (i.e. “the maintenance and recovery - - of domesticated or cultivated species in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties”). It requires Contracting Parties to develop national strategies “for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity” (Article 6) and “identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity” (Article 7). Further, the Contracting Parties are required to “develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations” (Article 8) and to “support local populations to develop and implement remedial action in degraded areas where biological diversity has been reduced” (Article 10). This should be achieved by the introduction of “appropriate procedures requiring environmental impact assessment of its proposed projects that are likely to have significant adverse effects on biological diversity with a view to avoiding or minimizing such effects” (Article 14).       

These requirements generally have been ignored. For example, only two years after the CBD was signed in Rio the European Directive 94/28/EC regarding the imports of animals states that “Imports of animals - - ova and embryos may not be prohibited, restricted or prevented by zootechnical or genealogical reasons other than those resulting from this Directive” (Article 1.4). There is no reference to assessment of adverse impact on native or locally-adapted AnGR.

Ten years ago Rare Breeds International (RBI) adopted and developed a Biological Impact Study (BIS) procedure which first had been formulated in South Africa. It was designed to comply with CBD requirements, and was focused on the protection of native AnGR. With the upcoming Rio+20 meeting in June 2012 RBI commends its BIS to all governments and relevant regulatory authorities, and hopes it will become an integral part of policies to maintain genetic diversity and protect endangered native AnGR. A copy can be seen at this link