Agricultural innovation has allowed massive expansion of people and their animals. Yet as the world population passed 7 billion in October 2011, more than one billion people remain malnourished and more than 2 billion are sickened each year from the food they ate. Millions more die from diseases that emerge from, or persist in, agricultural ecosystems: zoonoses (diseases transmissible between animals and man) and diseases recently emerged from animals make up 25% of the infectious disease burden in least developed countries and kill one in ten people who live there.
Other urgent health problems related to agriculture include fungal toxins (mycotoxins) in crops and animal source foods; plant toxins; use of wastewater for agriculture; misuse of agricultural chemicals and antibiotics; occupational hazards of food value chains; contribution of agriculture to climate change and impacts of this on disease; and, health impacts of agricultural alteration of ecosystems (such as irrigation practices that promote malaria).
Agriculture is exacting a heavy biological cost, but health policy and programs often stop at the clinic door while agriculture rarely has ‘enhancing health’ as an articulated objective. A consensus is growing that the disconnect between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming. The new CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Enhanced Nutrition and Health is attempting to bridge this disconnect and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has a major role in the component focusing on diseases related to agriculture
On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosts a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event will synthesize sector and ILRI learning and help frame future livestock research for development directions.