Supporting livestock keepers and breed conservation

Conference on livestock biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and and intellectual property rights, organized by the League for Pastoral Peoples in Bellagio, Italy, 27 March – 2 April 2006


To discuss the following issues:

  • How to endorse and acknowledge the role of livestock keepers in conserving diversity and ensure that their contribution to the sustainable use of animal genetic resources is rewarded and supported.
  • What are the legal options for protecting animal breeding related indigenous knowledge in the context of existing legal frameworks and emerging opportunities and new models. What are the respective advantages and disadvantages?

The participants concluded that in the (near) future the patenting of breeding processes and individual genes may restrict the rights of the communities and individuals to breed, manage and use their own livestock as they choose. Besides impacting rural livelihoods in a negative way, this would also pose a threat to the viability and continued development of the breeds. For example, a broad patent claim recently filed in 160 countries would, if approved, restrict the rights of breeders to use commonly practised breeding techniques for pigs.

The meeting participants unanimously recommended the legal recognition of livestock keepers’ inherent rights to continue to use and develop their own breeding stock and breeding practices. National governments must recognize these rights, acknowledge livestock keepers’ contribution to national economies, and adapt their policies and legal frameworks accordingly.

Participants regarded this as an important step in preventing the current intellectual property system from being exploited for obtaining control over animal resources and breeding processes that compose a principal part of the world’s food supply.

Summary of discussions and more information