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Stackyard News Jan 06

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€23 Million Project to Harness Animal Genetics

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More than 30 leading animal breeding research groups and businesses are joining forces in an innovative four-year, €23 million pan-European project to utilise the latest techniques in genetic science to develop more economically and environmentally sustainable production systems for cattle, pigs and chickens.

Led by the Roslin Institute-based Genesis Faraday Partnership, the integrated SABRE project, due to commence in April 2006, has been made possible by a major grant from the EU Sixth Framework Programme.

It involves no less than nine UK-based partners and is designed to provide a range of new breeding strategies to improve animal health and welfare; reduce chemical and energy inputs; minimise livestock waste and pollution; and, maximise food safety and quality.

The work programme, involving almost 200 scientists in 14 countries, is divided into
12 research, development and communication packages. These will harness key areas of emerging genomic and epigenetic science to generate new knowledge and apply it in practical breeding improvement strategies throughout Europe.

The mammary gland, the digestive system and fertility will be the focus of separate basic research packages, with more applied research aimed at enhancing eggshell quality for food safety; improving animal behaviour linked to welfare; and eliminating boar taint in pigmeat.

“From its official launch in the spring, this exciting project will be a hugely valuable step towards regaining the momentum the UK in particular and Europe in general is in serious danger of losing in the fast-developing and increasingly competitive world of modern animal breeding science,” stressed SABRE project co-ordinator and Genesis Faraday chief executive, Chris Warkup.

“While a high proportion of the world’s leading livestock breeding companies are UK-based and our animal breeding research base remains world class, we face a major challenge in maintaining this position as investment in the most modern animal breeding technologies across the globe grows at a startling pace.

“We look forward to building on this important initiative, attracting growing political and financial support for the UK’s particular capability in these critical fields. Only in this way can we safeguard our place at the forefront of the area of modern science offering the greatest potential for addressing the most pressing sustainability challenges facing animal agriculture. Fail to do so and we will see our position rapidly usurped by our global competitors - to our direct and lasting disadvantage.”

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