Participants at a conference on ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Human Nutrition and Health’, which has just ended in New Delhi, heard that livestock intensification in developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, may increase the incidence of epidemics that kill both humans and animals.
‘”The increase in density leads to increased contact between humans and animals—leading to transmission of pathogens,” John McDermott, deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), told SciDev.Net.
‘Over 60 per cent of human pathogens, and three-quarters of new human pathogens, are transmitted by animals, said McDermott and his co-author, Delia Grace, a veterinary and food safety researcher at the institute.
‘”Livestock,” said McDermott, “is one of the biggest tools for poverty reduction but while the developed world has the capacity to deal with disease related to livestock-rearing, the cost makes this impossible for poor countries.” . . .
‘Agricultural intensification in the developing world is typically focused on increasing food production and profitability, while the potential effects on human health remain largely ignored, they told the meeting (10−12 February). . . .
‘Per Pinstrup-Anderson, professor of food, nutrition and public policy at Cornell University, in the United States, said: “Contact between animal and human beings is the key issue here. Farmers need to be taught how to keep animals away from their living quarters”.
‘McDermott said that countries should invest in disease surveillance and that this should include a participatory approach involving livestock-keepers because of their observational knowledge of disease.’
Read the whole article at SciDevNet: Livestock surge may harm human health, 11 February 2011.
Read a related article on the ILRI research in the Economist: Hots spots: How changing farming habits threaten public health, 10 February 2011.
To follow the conference proceedings, go to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) webpage: Leveraging agriculture for improving nutrition and health.