A fascinating panel discussion with speakers Prof Frank Dunshea, Prof Maggie Gill and Prof Frank O’Mara, formed the conclusion of the ‘Delivering Solutions Across Continents’ conference session.
With respect to climate change, the need for more short-term targets and monitoring to encourage compliance to limits on greenhouse gas production was noted by Professor Maggie Gill. To this point, Professor Frank Dunshea also noted that much of the required action may well be achieved by companies requiring their suppliers, etc., to be compliant to the requisite standards, and that this might drive change. Professor Maggie Gill also added that there is a lack of information for much of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, in terms of the data required to underpin the best methods of production in a climate changed world.
Professor Frank O’Mara was asked if the Animal Task force was also required to develop cooperation with other regions other than in the EU. He noted that its function was to influence research agendas and to share ideas around the world, although it does not have a collaboration agenda as such.
Professor Maggie Gill suggested that the livestock production of the past, which focused only on production, has led to the environment being harmed. She went on to note that livestock are nevertheless part of the ecosystem more widely, and that they can deliver ecological benefits if used in an environmentally sustainable way, including increasing biodiversity. Professor Frank Dunshea noted that livestock are likely to remain part of food systems, because of economic and cultural reasons, as well as the need to convert food unavailable to humans into food that is available to humans, albeit that there will be a diversity of systems, and that the details of these may change, as efficiency, for example, increases. We are likely to see improved animal welfare and lower use of antimicrobials, for example. He noted that research and development are likely to remain a key part of this progress.
In response to the question of whether the circular bioeconomy will gain traction in Europe, Professor Frank O’Mara suggested that this is very likely to be the case, and that livestock are likely to be a key part of this, in addition to more novel industries, such as insect protein. Professor Maggie Gill noted that there are many potential opportunities for the biomass that at present is only made into sheep meat and wool, and that greater understanding of the circular bioeconomy will make these known.
To answer the question of whether certain traits that are present in indigenous breeds may be usefully introduced into the intensive breeds, Professor Frank Dunshea suggested that this may well be the case, for example in the dairy industry, which includes genes for heat resistance, for example.
Another issue also raised during the session was the question of ‘How developing countries more interested in increasing production (with almost no policies to guide production as is in developing countries) will be able to collaborate meaningfully.
‘In developing countries, research funding is a major issue because grant donors are more interested in solutions to the problems in their locality which is usually their major mandate. In addition, since the advent of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, most grants are geared towards these, and the challenge remains that many researchers in developing countries are not equipped adequately to carry out such works for a number of reasons – lack of appropriate data or records for prediction, comparisons, policy making etc – lack of government policies or where they exist, the lack of implementation and monitoring for adherence.’ Dr Helen Ajayi, Session Chair
This session was co-chaired by Dr Michael Rose and Dr Helen Ajayi
If you weren’t able to attend this session or would like to watch it again, then it can be streamed on the Whova conference platform.