Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Commercial Producers Play Chicken with Avian Flu

In the late 1980s thousands of chickens died from a cancer caused by a virus known as avian leukosis virus J because they were all descended from a few roosters susceptible to the disease.

This is just one example of how a lack of genetic diversity can imperil livestock and agriculture. Similar instances abound from the Irish potato famine of the 19th century to cattle raised for meat—one bull named Ivanhoe passed on his genetic susceptibility to an immune system disorder to roughly 15 percent of all the Holstein bulls in the U.S. today.
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