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This page was published on 02/02/2007
Published: 02/02/2007


Published: 2 February 2007  
Related category(ies):
Agriculture & food  |  Environment  |  Pure sciences  |  Health & life sciences  |  Research policy


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EU project supports rural herding communities via animal gene pool analysis

As Europe's urban population continues to grow and rural residents gradually migrate to cities, EU policy makers remain dedicated to ensuring that traditional agricultural systems remain intact. In an effort to better understand best practice strategies for citizens living in marginal rural areas, the EU funded the ECONOGENE project. ECONOGENE utilised the combined molecular analysis of biodiversity, socio-economics and geostatistics, so as to address the conservation of sheep and goat genetic resources, and also to preserve rural development in marginal agrosystems in Europe.

The EU-funded project aimed at preserving culturally and economically valuable sheep and goat breeds. © Matt+
The EU-funded project aimed at preserving culturally and economically valuable sheep and goat breeds.
Using a coordinated approach, the ECONOGENE project defined strategies for genetic management and rural development. It significantly expanded the knowledge base of sheep and goat genetic diversity, studied success rates for many previously unstudied local breeds, and identified gene pools critical to establishing viable conservation priorities.

Through extensive observation, in situ testing and interviews conducted with local farmers, the ECONOGENE partners were able to introduce a map of development perspectives; this identified areas where sustainable conservation of both economically and ecologically valuable populations was most likely to succeed.

Once the conservation and development priority maps were drafted, ECONOGENE participants compared them with the value of such biodiversity, thus providing information useful to policy makers in justifying economic interventions. The research consortium also used the information gathered through the genetic conservation plan, to draw up appropriate guidelines and actions for Member States.

Once the hard data were collected (researchers collected a total of 3401 animals from 885 sampling sites across Europe, the Middle East and Egypt), the project consortium undertook a critical analysis of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures. This had the goal of providing a description of economic and social issues related to actual and potential socio-economic development of rural areas.

To communicate their results, the consortium produced a handbook, reviewing and designing methods that can serve to guide conservation policies for livestock breeds threatened by extinction.

The project was part of the Quality of Life theme in the EU's Fifth Research Framework Programme, which incorporates Key Actions aiming to enhance European citizens' quality of life, and also to improve the competitiveness of European industry. The project included participants from a total of nine EU countries.

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See also

ECONOGENE homepage
Key action 5 (KA5) on Europa
Social sciences in FP7

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