Weekly Overview: Gene Technology for Future Health Management?

3 December 2012, at 11:47pm

Gene technology may form the basis of pig health management in the future, according to one company at the forefront of its application for farm livestock. Also in the news are the record values of the US maize and soybean crops this year; yields suffered as the result of drought but just look how prices have soared. More Foot and Mouth Diseases has been found in pigs in Taiwan and China, Classical Swine Fever has broken out in Latvia and African Swine Fever is spreading across Russia.

The way in which herd and flock health is managed could change radically over the next 20 years, thanks to developments in molecular technology. This was one of the conclusions from a recent meeting in Brussels on 'Advances in Diagnostics'.

The meeting heard how developments in molecular technology are opening new possibilities for animal disease prevention and control.

"This application of molecular technology means that we can now understand diseases and animal health at a more fundamental level than ever before - at the gene level - and that will have a major impact on the way we approach animal health in the near future," said Dr Kirk Adams, director of product management at Life Technologies, who sponsored the meeting.

With the election of 2012 over, it may be a good thing that the forthcoming debate in the US over the so-called 'fiscal cliff' of automatic budget cuts and tax increases coincides with the ongoing debate over the US Farm Bill.

Carl Zulauf, a professor in Ohio State’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics has said that while it is risky to simplify the policy environment in any country as large and diverse as the US, "many issues confronting the US at present can be viewed as a debate over the components, administration and funding of a US safety net modernised for the 21st century".

Despite the drought, the agricultural crop sector continues to record-breaking crop values in the US, according to an Iowa State University Extension report.

Even though maize and soybean output fell dramatically in 2012, both will set records in terms of the value of the crops due to the high prices being received.

A decade ago, the maize crop was worth $20 billion; the 2012 corn crop is valued at over $80 billion. In 2002, the national soybean crop had a production value of $15 billion; it is valued at nearly $45 billion for this year.

Another farm has been found with foot and mouth disease in Taiwan following routine surveillance testing, and the clinical disease has been reported at a farm in north-eastern China.

Classical Swine Fever has been reported three farms in south east Latvia. In Russia, the first outbreak of African swine fever has been reported in the Moscow region.