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Pigs and chickens – how animal breeding gets dominated by the biotech-business

Hybrid  animals are a result of cross breeding and are not able to produce their own offspring. Each time a farmer will have to buy new chicks or piglets from the breeding company. In Western-Europe this is already quite common, but in many regions in the world this will make small farmers more dependent on the agribusiness and their loans.
In general the variety of poultry and cattle is declining. Three quarters of the world’s chicken, two thirds of its milk, half of its eggs and one third of its pigs are produced from industrial breeding lines, which are genetically very similar animals bred for industrial farming. This increases the risk of uncontrollable diseases. It also illustrates how that the sector sees chicken, cows, pigs and other animals just as an economical commodity and not as a living creature.

Susanna Gura has been researching this business and wrote her findings down in a report: “Industrial livestock production and its impact on smallholders in developing countries. Consultancy report to the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development”. The report includes case studies – the dairy industry in Pakistan and China, and pig and poultry production in Brazil, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – as well as recommendations for action. You can download it here. It is worth reading.

In July 2007 the Flemish TV channel Canvas broadcasted a German documentary about some of Monsanto’s activities in stock breeding. This biotech multinational is obtaining patents on the pig genome. They hope that soon a farmer will have to pay them royalties for every piglet. At A SEED we don’t have any sympathy for the western pig farmer, but still… this is clearly not the way agriculture should go.
In general biotech companies are busy patenting all possible parts of the food chain, GM or conventional, to get a total control over the production of food. In October 2008 a broad coalition of farmer, environmental and development organisations demonstrated against this development at the European Patent Office in the German town München. On http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org you will be able to find a report of this action.