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Experts to Discuss Health and Sustainability of Animal Production at Next Week's Symposium


Global demand for animal products is on the rise. The International Symposium on Sustainable Animal Production and Health will support meeting that demand by providing a roadmap for the sustainable improvement of animal production, focusing on the contributions and impact of nuclear technologies and applications can play. (Photo: S. Mania/FAO)

How we rear, treat and care for livestock impacts our health and that of our planet. As we grapple with a pandemic that originated from animals, a global spotlight is now shone on animal health and its role not just in nutrition but in human disease.

On Monday, a major expert gathering organized by the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture will draw on lessons learned and current best practices to provide a roadmap for the sustainable improvement of animal production whilst protecting people's health and the environment. The focus of the symposium will be on the contributions and impact of nuclear technologies and applications. Register here to attend the 28 June to 2 July event.

“It is more apparent today than at any other time, that the care we give livestock and the animals we live with, has a direct impact on each and every one of us,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications. “At this symposium, we are gathering experts in animal health from across nations, to discuss how nuclear applications can not only improve animal rearing and health, but also enhance human livelihoods.”

The International Symposium on Sustainable Animal Production and Health, was last held in 2009, and the 12-year gap has left a lot of room for innovation in this year’s edition. A completely virtual event and unrestrained by physical limits, the symposium will attract over 2200 experts and attendees from more than 150 countries. An event app allowing participants to engage with one another and the sessions they are attending, will help keep the gathering connected.

Meeting animal demand

This year’s symposium will be of interest to animal and public health scientists and other professionals, policy makers, experts from international organizations and associations that deal with animal health, field veterinarians, livestock keepers, veterinary students, and professors in the animal production and health fields.

Over five days, the symposium will share knowledge on modern and novel technologies in animal production and health, and their application to support sustainable livestock production systems. Discussions will focus on constraints, opportunities, and advantages for the effective transfer of nuclear and nuclear derived or related technologies between countries.

With more than 50 speakers, leading experts will share their experiences and progress, and identify capacity and research needs to address gaps and opportunities for transferring technologies and building capacities for solving factors that limit livestock productivity and increase animal disease outbreaks, particularly in developing countries.

“As societies develop, so does their demand for animal products,” said Gerrit Viljoen, Head of the IAEA’s Animal Production and Health Section. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects world meat production to double by 2050, most of which is expected to come from developing countries. “Meeting this demand in a way that’s sustainable, moral, and limits the potential for diseases moving between animals and from animals to humans will require innovation and new technologies. Nuclear techniques and our understanding of how they can be applied to animal production and health have made great strides over the last decades and we’ll be exploring all of these aspects at the symposium,” Viljoen explained.

Covering recent developments in technologies applied to animal production and health, the symposium will dive into topical areas, including immunological and molecular tools for animal production and health; advances in vaccinology; emergency preparedness and response; zoonotic diseases, including COVID-19 and the IAEA ZODIAC initiative; enhancing livestock’s contribution to One Health and the SDGs; challenges for better livestock production in the developing world; advances in biotechnologies for improving livestock breeding and feeding; and the application of improved technologies for sustainable livestock productivity.

ZODIAC, the IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action initiative, is helping countries prevent future human pandemics caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals, building on the technical, scientific and laboratory research and development activities in immunological, molecular, nuclear and isotopic technics of the IAEA and its partners. Established last June the initiative is taking a holistic approach to tackling zoonotic diseases, Viljoen said. To date, 150 countries have signed up to the initiative, which will identify, monitor, trace and detect pathogens where humans and animals interact, and help coordinate effective global interventions and responses to potential outbreaks.

A decade since success

The symposium will also, through a special session, mark ten years since the successful eradication of rinderpest. A devastating disease that affected cattle, buffalo and other even-toed ungulates, rinderpest is recorded to have plagued farmers for over 5000 years — causing continent-stretching famine and poverty. In 2011, rinderpest became only the second disease (after smallpox in humans) to be globally eradicated, partly due to IAEA technical support.

The rinderpest eradication commemoration, on 28 June at 15:00 Vienna time, will include addresses by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, FAO Director General Qu Dongyu, and World Organisation for Animal Health Director General Monique Eloit.

Register for the rinderpest eradication commemoration.

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