Livestock biodiversity
indigenous knowledge
and intellectual property rights

Bellagio, Italy, 27 Mar - 2 April 2006

Bellagio brief

Supporting livestock keepers and breed conservation

Milking Nari cattle, Rajasthan, India
Photo: Ilse Koehler-Rollefson

Chickens, Sri Lanka
Photo: Sunil Gamage

Tzotzil shepherdesses inspecting fleece quality, Mexico
Photo: Raul Perezgrovas


Bellagio Study and Conference Center, Italy
Photo: Irene Hoffmann

There are some 7000 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, camels, and other types of livestock worldwide. These breeds form the building material for the livestock development of the future, so are of immense significance for long-term global food-security. 

Most breeds are the result of centuries of breeding by pastoralists and small-scale livestock keepers. They have crafted animals that are highly adapted to their local environment, resist pests and diseases, and withstand drought and cold. The animals produce a wide range of products (meat, milk, eggs, hides, fertilizer) and services (draught power, cash reserve).

But these breeds, and the people who maintain them, are under threat:

  • Intensification of farming is replacing local breeds with high-yielding, uniform breeds.
  • Smallholders and pastoralists are losing rights to grazing land, fodder and water. Unable to feed their animals, many are giving up livestock-keeping and abandoning the breeds they help maintain.
  • The patenting of breeding processes and individual genes may restrict the rights of traditional livestock keepers to breed, manage and use their livestock as they choose.

This conference focused on these issues and ways to address them by:

  • Pressing governments to protect the rights of livestock keepers
  • Crafting national laws and international agreements to prevent the misappropriation of intellectual property by powerful outsiders
  • Helping local communities take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by their livestock breeds.

The conference issued the Bellagio Brief highlighting these topics.

Thanks to the following for making this conference possible.

League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development,