The world has celebrated rinderpest virus eradication. But an FAO video shows there’s cleaning up to do after the party. Virologist Michael Baron explains.
Rinderpest, aka ’cattle plague’, was with us for a long time, at least 2000 years. Over the centuries, the virus killed uncounted millions of animals in Asia and Europe. When it was accidentally introduced into Africa for the first time, in the late 19th century, it went on to kill ~90% of the cattle and buffalo on that continent. It was, let’s be honest, a Very Bad Thing.
Note the past tense. After several decades of hard work across all of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, rinderpest was declared eradicated in 2011 (PDF), and there have been no cases of the disease, anywhere, for more than 15 years. Rinderpest was a Very Bad Thing, but it is now no longer a thing at all (read this GFS blog post for a review of how it was done).
Continue reading Locking up a killer virus
Terrestrial and aquatic food production systems share a range of common problems that need solutions. Rachel Norman from the University of Stirling reports.
A mathematical biologist by training, I was very keen to tease out whether we could treat fish and crops as being the same when we come to think about problems in food security.
After some consternation amongst my biological colleagues, there was consensus that aquaculture systems share some common features with both crops and chickens – they both have relatively high stocking densities, for example. They also share common risks, for example disease outbreaks can be devastating in all cases.
Continue reading Surf and turf: bringing crop and fish people together
Can we tap into ecological defences to better protect crops? The University of Sheffield’s Will Buswell reports.
Crop pathogens are a substantial drain on world food production. Annually, an estimated 20% of global yields are lost to disease, but this figure belies far greater losses for specific food systems and the people whose stable existence is dependent upon them, particularly in developing countries.
For instance, rice is the staple crop for over half of the world’s population, yet almost 40% of yield is lost to disease each year.
Continue reading Priming plants for natural disease control
It’s time to re-evaluate the impacts of the potential cultivation of GM crops in UK agriculture, says policy researcher at ADAS Carla Turner.
Genetic modification (GM) in crops has been on the political agenda since their emergence in the 1980s and the first commercially available GM crop approved for cultivation in 1994.
Within the European Union (EU) there has been a precautionary approach to the commercial cultivation of GM crops with stringent approvals legislation.
Continue reading What if we grew GM crops in Britain?
What will next generation livestock farms look like? Mick Watson examines scenarios and what we should do to get there.
Farmer Jane opened the gate and walked along the track that meandered along the side of her cattle barn. Chuckling to herself, she was old enough to remember how disease surveillance used to be done. It was so much easier now. Inside the barn, she approached the first of the ten cattle that had been randomly isolated, reached into her bag and took out the first of her SeqPensTM. Removing the protective lid, she briefly pressed the steel nib to the neck of the first animal then stood back to wait for the lights to change.
Continue reading Food, fantasies and the future
The poverty that many women suffer in the developing world is no laughing matter, but tackling a deadly livestock disease could help. Michael Baron explains.
On June 22 this year a number of UK celebrities, including Cilla Black, Cherie Blair, Rajashree Birla and Baroness Floella Benjamin, drew attention to International Widows’ Day by walking a small herd of goats across London Bridge.
The link between these two groups (the widows and the goats, rather than the celebrities) is poverty. Widows are among the poorest households in developing countries where there are no benefit systems to provide income support or pensions.
Continue reading A goat, a widow and a celebrity walk into a bar…
Fine tuning policies and collaborations can strengthen animal and plant pathogen research, says Wyn Grant.
In the 21st century, one of the potential consequences of climate change and free global trade is that animal and plant disease may pose increasing threats to our food supplies.
It’s important to understand the biology of the pathogens and pests involved, but it’s equally important to fully consider the human dimension, and the part that people and their behaviour play.
Continue reading The devils and the details of disease
Scientists and international organisations are well placed to eliminate another deadly animal disease, says Michael Baron.
The eradication of the long-feared cattle disease rinderpest, announced by OIE and FAO in June 2011, is a momentous achievement. John Anderson has already written on this blog about the lessons learned during the rinderpest eradication programme, which I’ve also described on video.
If we can do it once, we can do it again; the only question is: what should be the next target?
Continue reading The cattle plague virus is gone: what’s next?
Concerted and coordinated action can bring success in the field and enhance food security, says John Anderson.
We now believe rinderpest has been eradicated from the world. When finally confirmed in 2011, rinderpest eradication will be the only disease conquered after smallpox back in the 1970s.
Rinderpest was one of the most devastating virus diseases of livestock known to man. Closely related to measles in humans, rinderpest (from the German ‘cattle plague’) has probably been around since before the birth of Christ and devastated European powers in the 17th century.
Continue reading Lessons learned from global rinderpest eradication
Tracking plant pathogens is a vital part of agro-economic development, says Maurizio Vurro.
As with human and animal diseases, the emergence or re-emergence of plant diseases is often due to man’s activities – a consequence of mass tourism, global trade, or changes to farming practises or the environment.
Continue reading Monitoring emerging crop diseases in developing countries