The world population is projected to grow to approximately 9.2 billion by 2050, an increase of over 30% compared to the present (UNFPA, 2010). As a result, food security has become one of the greatest challenges facing this generation (Sheridan, 2010) with the most acute challenges lying in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia. In 2009, nearly one billion people lived with hunger (Nature, 2010) and a further 925 million were malnourished (FAO, 2011). Apart from the compelling moral obligation to address widespread malnutrition and hunger at home and abroad, food insecurity is an international concern because it undermines social and economic development, causes environmental destruction, promotes the spread of disease, and ultimately, threatens global peace. Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, has commented that “Without food, people revolt, migrate or die” (NATO PA, 2009).
Food security is a remarkably complex issue that confronts the veterinary profession together with many other scientific, social, economic, and political disciplines. Many of the issues were addressed by the World Health Organization in 2002 under the flag of “health for all,” by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) One Health Initiative (AVMA, 2008), and recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s detailed analysis, World Livestock 2011 (FAO, 2011). The goal of those reports is to find solutions to food security by linking animal and human health together with environmental health, food production, and the preservation of biodiversity. However, because of the complex relationships between animals, humans, and the environment, the dimensions of these initiatives are inevitably much broader and include global population growth, urbanization, poverty, farming efficiency, water conservation, transportation and global trade, and resilience of the food supply. Thus, the veterinary medical profession is confronted with challenges that are far more complicated than anything it has ever had to face and must learn to work with specialists from many other fields to find comprehensive, One Health solutions
to one of the most difficult issues of the 21st century. As discussed below, the professional training of veterinarians of the future will need to include an understanding of the ways in which the lives of people and animals are rapidly changing in the broader world, particularly in developing nations, where the changes are driving a need for veterinary expertise.
The urban industrial economies of the developing world are growing at a scale and intensity that is unprecedented in human history. In the next 40 years almost all of the world’s population growth will occur in urban centers of developing countries that are growing at a rate of nearly 1.3 million people per week (United Nations, 2009). In everyday terms, this growth rate is equivalent to adding the population of a city the size of Dallas, Texas, the eighth largest U.S. city, every week for the next 40 years. For the first time in history, more people now live in cities than in the countryside and the United Nations (U.N.) projects that by 2050, over 70% of the world’s population will be urban. Asia is presently the epicenter of the urbanization surge, but the greatest surge is expected to be in SSA, which is projected to add 395 million people to its cities in the next 20 years (Cities Alliance, 2006). As a result, the urban centers of low and middle income countries represent a new global frontier of human activity and are central to the demographic, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century (Martine et al., 2008).
Urbanization in the developing world increases and concentrates demand for both water and food, and requires restructuring of food production methods, supply chains, and markets to sustain demand. While people living in rural areas generally depend on their own food production for at least 60% of their needs and barter for the rest, those living in cities depend on the market for 90-100% of their food (Macalla, 2001). As cities can be vulnerable to disruptions in the food supply, finding ways in which these dangers can be mitigated has become increasingly important. They include managing the impact of large, intensive livestock production facilities, maintaining livestock and poultry health and food safety, controlling infectious diseases, and developing a multi-functional veterinary profession. Food supply is linked to water supply because agriculture is a large user of water and changes in the availability of water can have a profound impact on food security. World water resources are finite and are threatened as a result of climate change and drought in most of the world’s semi-arid regions. Political conflict over shortages is a potential concern. Pollution is an additional problem as rivers of the developing world are affected by farm run-off, industrial discharges, and poor to non-existent urban waste-management practices. Periurban (in close approximation to urban centers) livestock production in Southeast Asia exemplifies the problem. Much of the growth in China’s food production in the past two decades has taken place on peri-urban land. Approximately 100% of the milk and 90% of eggs consumed in Shanghai are produced within the limits of lands administered by the city (Yi-Zhong and Zhangen, 2000).
Since there may be little adjacent land to recycle animal waste, it is flushed into waterways where it increases contamination and the spread of waterborne infectious diseases (World Bank, 2005).
Urban sprawl also reduces the amount of farmland available to produce food. The rate of growth in urban land cover will outpace the rate of growth in the world’s urban population (Angel et al., 2011). Between 2000 and 2030, the urban population of developing countries is expected to double, while in the same time period, the built-up area of their cities is anticipated grow three-fold. The dimensions of farmland loss are illustrated in one study documenting the growth of four cities situated in China’s Pearl River Delta. The cities (Shenzen, Guangzou, Zhongshan, and Dongguan), each with over one million residents, quadrupled their land area in 1989 and 1999, usurping 321 square miles of farmland (Seto, 2011). Thus, as cities expand, agricultural productivity, markets, and the transportation infrastructure must all increase in a sustainable fashion to supply ever more distant markets with food that is wholesome, safe, and affordable for millions of urban rich and poor.
A major question is whether agricultural producers can adapt swiftly enough to meet the demands of rapidly urbanizing populations. With urban sprawl, areas of land devoted to mineral extraction and commercial forests, use of land to produce biofuels, and constrained availability of agricultural land for food production, the world is entering into a period of tightening food supplies. Food prices are likely to continue to rise, and global power struggles over food security have the potential to emerge (Brown, 2011).
Most urban people of the developing world will live in slums in the future and are the most food insecure of all. According to Davis (2006), residents of slums constitute “a staggering 78.2% of urbanites in the least developed countries” and equal at least one third of the total urban population globally. Urban population growth in SSA is proceeding at the annual rate of 3.56% whereas the population growth in slums is increasing at the rate of 4.13% (Black and King, 2009). Clean water, transportation, and public health (including veterinary public health) services are generally lacking, and without sewage disposal systems, slums contribute extensively to environmental pollution.
For those who live in slums, food prices and access to food are problems. Supermarkets play an increasing role in marketing foods of animal origin in the developing world, but they are not located in slums. To address food insecurity, slum dwellers may maintain and live in close proximity to domesticated food animals. Feral animals are also ubiquitous, so parasitic diseases are spread in both food animals and people. Outbreaks of zoonotic diseases such as H5N1 avian influenza are difficult problems to control in slums, although legislation preventing the maintenance of urban food animals is increasing. Despite these limitations, urban and peri-urban agriculture presently play important roles in provisioning the urban poor in many parts of the world, but whether these sys-
tems have the capacity to provision slums in cities of 30 million or more is less clear (see FAO, 2011). These issues take on particular significance in view of a study by the RAND Corporation on how demographic changes will affect future political conflict, that concludes that urbanization of world poverty has produced the “urbanization of insurgency” (RAND, 1991). The World Bank reached a similar conclusion in the 1990s, and warned that urban poverty would become “the most significant and politically explosive problem” of the 21st century (see Davis, 2006).
People are drawn to cities in Southeast Asia because of booming manufacturing economies, the engine that drives job creation and prosperity. By contrast, growing populations in SSA are generally pushed into cities, unable to survive in rural areas because land is deteriorating from years of poor farming practices, climate change, drought, civil war, and ill-advised government agricultural policies. Eighty percent of arable land in SSA is described as degraded and the poorest on the planet. Rural and urban poverty is pervasive in SSA, the manufacturing engine is yet to develop, city slums are growing rapidly, and childhood malnutrition exceeds 40% (World Bank, 2011).
The Increasing Demand for Meat
Global economic output is expected to increase by 2-3% annually for the next 40 years, meaning that global income will exceed population growth (Goldstone, 2010). Much of the income gain will be in the developing world’s urban centers, especially in South Asia and South America. The World Bank predicts that by 2030, the middle-class population in the developing world will be 1.2 billion, an increase of 200% from 2005, and larger than the total populations of Europe, Japan, and the United States combined (Goldstone, 2010). The growth in the middle class is projected to be the world’s major driver of economic expansion, with direct implications for the efficiency of food production and veterinary medicine.
As people, generally the young, migrate to cities and earn greater spendable income, they demand diets with more expensive animal products, driving up food prices. Economic expansion in China and Southeast Asia is partially responsible for the present high grain prices that, among other things, aggravate the plight of the poor. Demand for meat and milk poses a problem to food security, as a greater percentage of global corn and soybean harvests are being diverted to animal feed. According to Foley et al. (2011) 35% of global crop production is devoted to animal feed. Climate change, drought, and diversion of corn to biofuel production in the United States further add significantly to world food price increases (Blythe, 2011). The challenge for soil scientists, crop geneticists, agricultural economists, and veterinary scientists worldwide therefore is to develop a common agenda of expanding food supplies rapidly and sustainably to satisfy growing needs while evading price increases. A number of studies suggest that the world can produce sufficient food to meet the global population needs in 2050, but the affordability of food remains an open question.
Land and water are finite resources, and as the demand for foods of animal origin seem likely to increase, the efficiency of food production, the resilience of the food chain, and the role of the veterinary profession appear increasingly important. Increasing demand in China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America is causing a “livestock revolution” (Delgado, 2003) and a shift to large, intensive, livestock operations that make use of fewer people per unit of product than traditional systems of agriculture. Intensive operations are frequently associated with multinational agribusiness conglomerates and supermarket chains selling processed, frozen, packaged, and branded meat, milk, ice cream etc. (see Costales et al., 2005). Rules and standards for food quality and safety have followed, favoring the growth of supermarkets that are expanding at rates of up to 25% per year in Southeast Asia. Because these operations are efficient and generally produce food at lower prices, they are beneficial, but, as noted earlier, generally not accessible to those who live in slums. They also marginalize small producers who are unable to compete in the supply and sales to supermarkets, but farm hillside and other difficult lands that are essential to food security in the world. If the efficiency and productivity of smallholders could be increased, they could be integrated into food supply chains.
Increases in affluence and demand for animal protein have already taken place in cities of Southeast Asia (Delgado et al., 1999; Delgado, 2003) and in the coming decades demand is expected to further increase at least two to three fold over consumption in rural households (Pingali, 1997; Delgado, 2003; Steinfeld, 2005). Milk sales in China demonstrate the effects of urbanization on consumption. Between 1997 and 2002, urban milk consumption in China increased by an average of 25% per year facilitated by increased spendable income and the availability of refrigeration, supermarkets, western-style restaurant chains, and ice cream parlors. By contrast, consumption of dairy products among rural communities changed little (Figure 8-1).
FIGURE 8-1 Urban and rural fresh dairy product consumption. SOURCE: Fuller and Beghin, 2004.
Although the consumption of meat and milk in the industrialized world is significantly greater on a per capita basis than in the developing world, the growing numbers of middle class consumers in the developing world is the force that propels overall demand and prices upward. Table 8-1 outlines the projected changes in meat and milk consumption in developing and industrialized countries between 1980 and 2030. The estimates are for a 560% increase in consumption of meat, mainly pork and poultry, and a 430% increase in milk consumption in the developing world, far beyond the growth of populations. Accompanying this is the increased demand for feed grains, especially corn and soybean, on the world markets. These figures emphasize that global food supplies are directly tied to the health and efficiency of the livestock and poultry industries and point to the growing importance and opportunities for the veterinary profession in sustaining food security in the future.
FAO estimates that available arable land will shrink by approximately 33% from 0.23 hectares (approximately 0.5 acre) per person in 2000, to 0.15 hectares (approximately 0.33 acre per person) by 2050 (www.fao.org/hunger/en/). It is not clear that these figures are adjusted for the loss of arable land from urban sprawl, but they nevertheless indicate that global agriculture must greatly increase its efficiency, without damaging the environment, a difficult task as the available land per person decreases.
The importance of production efficiency in relation to environmental sustainability can be illustrated by a comparison of the effects of milk yields per cow. Recognizing the importance of animal protein to childhood physical and cognitive development, several countries in Southeast Asia have promoted expansion of their nation’s dairy industry with the goal of providing a glass of milk each day to every child in the nation. The challenge for the dairy industry and the veterinary profession in these countries is to understand how the goal can be fulfilled. Milk yields per cow in China and Thailand, for example, average 27% of yields in the United States (2,423 kg/yr vs. 8,861 kg/yr) (China Livestock Yearbook, 2007; FAO, 2006; FAO, 2009). China is attempting to meet the increasing demand by increasing the number of cows in the nation’s dairy herd. But increasing the number of low-producing animals increases the cost per gallon of milk in terms of animal maintenance requirements, numbers of replacement animals, food and water consumption, land use, methane release, and waste production, raising questions about the long-term sustainability of the approach. Progress in the U.S. dairy industry over the past 60 years illustrates the advantages of increased production efficiency. In 1950, there were 22 million milk cows in the United States with an average annual yield of 5,314 lbs (664 gallons) per cow. Using the figure of 1.4 cow units per acre (cow + replacement heifer), this computes to approximately 3,796 lbs of milk (474 gal-
lons) per acre. Expressed another way, using the 2003 USDA/ERS figure of 177 lbs of whole and reduced fat milk consumption per person in the United States, one cow in 1950 could meet the needs of 30 people. By 2010, yields per cow had increased to 21,500 lbs, equaling 15,357 lbs of milk (1,919 gallons) per acre and a four-fold increase compared to 1950. At this level of production, one cow can meet the needs of 121 people with less land, less feed, and less manure per gallon than in 1950.
Similarly, although global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and is projected to double present levels by 2050, increases to date have come primarily from increased numbers of animals rather than improved livestock yields (Pingali, 1997; Delgado, 2003; Steinfeld, 2005; and Steinfeld et al., 2008). For example, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, two of the poorest countries on earth, increased their cattle populations several hundredfold between 1961 and 2007, but with no improvement in carcass yields throughout the period (FAO, 2009). Maintaining such large numbers of animals with low productivity is not only inefficient, it also leads to exploitation of more land, soil stress through overgrazing and erosion, and is not sustainable.
A more efficient and environmentally-sustainable approach to increasing food production is to redirect output towards fewer, higher-yielding animals (Burney et al., 2010; Capper et al., 2010). In countries where available land is in short supply, there are few alternatives but to intensify animal production. Faced with meteoric urban population growth and with 94% of the suitable land already under cultivation, China and countries of South Asia have shifted towards large, intensive systems of swine, poultry, and dairy production, accounting for roughly 80% of the total increase of Asian livestock products since 1990 (Delgado, 2003). The veterinary profession has an opportunity to help improve the efficiency of these operations and also ensure that animal welfare needs are addressed. Large-scale operations have the added advantage that they generally favor the introduction of new technologies and better management practices, factors that result in lower food prices, improved feed conversion and yields per animal, meaning fewer animals are required to meet demand.
|Developing World||Developed World|
|1980||2030||Percent increase||1980||2030||Percent increase|
|Total meat consumption (million tonnes)||47||252||437||86||121||41|
|Total milk consumption (million tonnes)||114||452||297||228||284||25|
Adapted from Steinfeld et al., 2006, and FAO, 2006.
In spite of their efficiency, large-scale, intensive methods of livestock and poultry production are often criticized as environmentally damaging. Concerns are growing about the effects of waste and pollution from these plants, as well as management practices, infectious disease control, biosecurity, animal welfare, and food safety. Public and private veterinary services in Southeast Asia are thus under great pressure to adjust their practices to meet the new challenges that have resulted from rapid urban growth, booming economies, and swift consolidation of livestock and poultry industries.
The Role of Science
“Since the way to feed the world is not to bring more land under cultivation, but to increase yields, science is crucial.” (Economist, 2008). That food riots were uncommon during the past four decades is largely attributable to the Green Revolution (Borlaug, 2002) which increased world grain production in existing cropping areas by some 250%, saving millions of people from hunger and starvation in Asia. The Green Revolution has been criticized for its heavy reliance on fertilizers, but the increased production spared forests and wildlife habitat, illustrating that responsibly-managed, high-yield farming can be one of the most effective ways of saving human lives while allowing wild species to survive (Green et al., 2005). In India, for example, the Green Revolution’s high-yield farming methods are estimated to have prevented 100 million acres of virgin land, an area about the size of California, from being converted into farmland.
The Green Revolution is still important, but its impact has been dampened by rising fuel and fertilizer prices and inefficient irrigation practices; with the Green Revolution’s decline, an era of cheap food is coming to an end. A new and more ecologically-informed, energy-constrained “sustainability revolution” is necessary. But that kind of change will require resources and a wholesale realignment of priorities and funding in agricultural research, including in the United States, where investment has steadily withered for over 40 years (Nature, 2010). The FAO estimates that global agricultural investments should increase by 50% by 2050 if there is to be enough food to feed 9.2 billion people. Of this, the FAO suggested that an annual infusion of $13 billion would be needed to increase livestock production (FAO, 2009). Thus, if population growth and the burgeoning cities of the developing world are to be sustained in rapidly warming climates, research and technical development is urgently needed, especially in tropical and sub-tropical agriculture. With the exceptions of China and Brazil where there have been remarkable increases in productivity, the issue of food security has received limited support from world funding agencies. Failure to fund this research will almost certainly precipitate worldwide increases in food insecurity, hunger, instability, and extremism.
Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), is the world’s leading tropical agricultural research organization today and the creator of a new
“green revolution” in the Cerrado, Brazil’s vast savanna lands lying south of the Amazon rain forest. Through a combination of soil improvement, integration of crop and livestock farming, no-till agriculture, and genetic improvement of forage grasses, soybean and livestock, Embrapa has, in the span of 30 years, transformed Brazil from a net food importer to one of the world’s bread-baskets, the largest exporter of beef and poultry, and the second largest exporter of soybean in the world (Economist, 2010). This model could be adapted to the savanna lands of Africa and Asia.
Food supplies must be capable of withstanding shocks from weather, economic crises, crop pests, and livestock diseases. Food systems in developed countries are generally resilient while those in developing countries are not (FAO, 2011; p. 4 and pp. 88-91). As the numbers of livestock and poultry produced in the developing world has increased, world trade in foods of animal origin has also expanded significantly, increasing the opportunity for infectious agents to gain a foothold in food systems. As a result, new and re-emerging infectious diseases have appeared almost on an annual basis for the past two decades. Seventy percent are zoonotic and most have come from reservoirs of infection in wildlife. The spread of H5N1 avian influenza, West Nile virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Monkey pox provide examples. Collectively, the epidemics they incited drew attention to the lack of coordination between human and veterinary public health services. It was this omission that gave rise to the One Health Initiative now championed by AVMA.
In addition, climate change is altering the range of pathogens, especially when they or their vectors depend upon warm temperatures and high humidity. Bluetongue virus is an example; the virus affects ruminants, especially sheep. In the past ten years bluetongue has spread from its traditional range in North Africa to most of Europe causing massive losses in sheep and disrupting trade (www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/213041/EW_europe_sept06.pdf).
Extensive systems of livestock farming in many parts of the world have intruded increasingly into wildlife habitat, crowding and stressing wildlife and changing the dynamics of disease transmission. As a result, infectious diseases of wildlife, many of which were previously unknown, have been transmitted to livestock and people. Nipah virus, for example, spread in Malaysia from a reservoir of infection in fruit bats to swine and then to people where it was associated with high fatality rates. As a result, the swine industry suffered high losses and has been severely restricted in that country. There is every prospect that this pattern of disease emergence will continue and it is the task of the veterinary profession worldwide to work with the medical profession, environmental scientists, wildlife biologists, and others to provide surveillance of wildlife health and monitor the emergence of new infections that may threaten human health and the resilience of the food supply.
In Southeast Asia and China, intensive systems of livestock and poultry production are growing rapidly, introducing new opportunities and new niches for infectious disease proliferation and spread, as well as new threats to food safety. These hazards present the veterinary profession in those regions of the world with new challenges and responsibilities. Understanding how to prepare and maintain biosecurity protocols that are essential to controlling infectious disease outbreaks in these operations will be critical, as will be the development of managerial skills geared towards production medicine, efficiencies of scale, nutrition, reproduction, disease surveillance and control, food safety, risk management, water conservation, waste management, and responsible environmental stewardship. Mastering these skills is every bit as important as monitoring wildlife for the emergence of new infectious diseases. The veterinary profession in the developed world can and should play an important role in advancing these goals.
Foot and mouth disease (FMD), exotic Newcastle disease, African Swine Fever, and Classical Swine Fever infect only animals, but those diseases affect human lives when they reduce animal productivity and compromise the resilience of the food supply system. These diseases are endemic in many parts of the developing world where, for centuries, they have not only damaged animal health and productivity but caused incalculable hunger and suffering among poor rural communities. Research on methods for rapid diagnosis and control for these diseases receives little funding in the developed world, particularly in the United States, but if the growing problems of food insecurity and threats of extremism and conflict in the developing world are to be addressed, this situation must change. Eradication of rinderpest, the most dreaded of all livestock diseases, highlights the importance of veterinary medicine to food security, and the need for the necessary financial support and leadership (Box 8-1).
The veterinary profession has an opportunity to use the experiences gained in the rinderpest eradication program to highlight the potential to address other prevalent, damaging, and destabilizing diseases of livestock and poultry. FMD stands out because it is notorious for spreading widely, devastating lives, reducing productivity, restricting animal movements, and compromising the resilience of food security throughout the world. To control this and other livestock and poultry diseases, national and international agencies should provide more appropriate levels of research support, and the veterinary profession should justify the investment by conducting high-quality studies that can be expected to lead to disease control. Rapid, sensitive field assays for early diagnosis of infectious diseases, vaccines that confer resistance to all susceptible species against different strains of an infectious agent, and heat-stable vaccines that are easy to deliver and marked to distinguish between an agent’s vaccinal and field strains would
Throughout history one of the most feared and devastating animal diseases was rinderpest (cattle plague), a highly fatal infectious disease that affects a broad spectrum of domestic and wild ruminants. The disease was once spread ubiquitously across the planet and, for centuries, its epidemics deprived people of meat, milk, and a means of tilling the land, leading to hunger and starvation, while decimating wildlife populations (Roeder, 2005). Accidental introduction of rinderpest into Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of the 19th Century caused massive loss of livestock and death through starvation of one third of the population of Ethiopia and nearly two thirds of the Masai tribe in Tanzania.
Now, owing to the efforts of veterinarians working with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), FAO, and the Global Rinderpest Eradication Program, the world has been declared free of rinderpest, thirty years after the eradication of small pox. Rinderpest thus becomes the second viral pathogen to be successfully removed from the face of the earth as the result of human intervention (FAO, 2010). In many ways, this is veterinary medicine’s greatest single contribution to humankind, saving countless lives while ensuring the security and safety of global food supplies. The accomplishment stands as testimony to the profession’s stewardship of domestic animals, wildlife, and human food security.
be transformative developments. In addition, research is needed to improve animal production through better management, better nutrition, genetics, and improved reproductive efficiencies.
In 2010, FAO, OIE (The World Organization for Animal Health), and the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the importance of building a global veterinary infrastructure by announcing a 5-year, international One Health initiative that aims to “strengthen the capacity of public veterinary services in preparation, prevention and response to animal disease occurrence" (FAO, 2010). Global programs that advance these goals are a matter of enlightened self-interest for the industrialized world, including the United States, to defend the public against zoonotic infections; to safeguard the economic security of U.S. livestock and poultry industries; to protect the indigenous wildlife of North America; and, ensure the security and quality of the nation’s food supplies. In the past decade, just two cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy cost the U.S. economy an estimated $11 billion (Doering, 2008); foot and mouth disease (FMD) cost the U.K. Government an estimated $30 billion; and, in eight months, SARS cost the economies of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Canada $200 billion (NRC, 2009). The U.S. Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a highly-pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza epidemic in the United States would cost the American economy $675 billion (CBO, 2006; Poland, 2006).
Veterinary participation is also needed in policy development, educational efforts, technical innovation, and the delivery of services in the field. Veterinarians from the developed world, especially the United States, need to demonstrate their capacity to support sustainable and economically-viable food-animal production systems. And they must assume leadership in helping to build effective veterinary public health capacity in the developing world. Understanding local cultures, overcoming illiteracy, and access to information all are needed. Veterinary services should be linked with the value of animals in an area and the capacity of farmers to pay for these services. Veterinary paraprofessionals and trained workers operating in animal-health care teams have been successful in parts of the developing world; they should be directly linked with licensed veterinary practitioners and public veterinary diagnostic and control services. These linkages have not consistently been in place, but the proliferation of smart phones, rapidly expanding cell-phone services, and development of voice recognition technologies now make education and the development of veterinarian/paraprofessional animal health networks a realistic possibility.
Presently, veterinary education in the United States is the envy of the world and the single most valuable asset the profession has to offer. The One Health Initiative has so far paid particular attention to the importance of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, especially zoonotic diseases. However, the connections of disease to food production argues for an expansion of that agenda to include urban food security, the sustainable intensification of livestock production, and ecosystem health in the developing world, as these are intertwined. Educational initiatives in public health, production medicine, and ecosystem health are essential to address these challenges in the United States and beyond and require the nation’s veterinary schools and colleges to consider their priorities in global health. Scientific discovery, comparative animal research, and environmental health are crucial for global food security. New, international sources of funding should be found to widely expand veterinary research capacity in the United States and create partnerships with institutions in developing countries.
Veterinary students in the United States are increasingly interested in careers in global health, recognizing it as critically important to food security and to the future of the profession they have entered. To gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the challenges, these students, together with graduates and faculty interested in global health, need to travel abroad and work side by side with veterinarians, paraprofessionals, and community animal-health workers in developing countries. Training veterinarians in the United States on collaborative, One Health solutions to the complex problems described in this chapter can provide an opportunity to build veterinary capacity and advance the profession’s role in protecting public and environmental health both in the developed and developing worlds.
The USDA supports these initiatives and provides a roadmap to the programs it fosters at: www.csrees.usda.gov/nea/international/pdfs/vis_guide.pdf. The goal of the partnerships should be to build the capacity of the veterinary profes-
sion in the developing world where, regrettably, the profession is commonly held in poor regard, and animal-health regulations, if they exist, may be feebly enforced.
Building capacity at every level is important for without this, advances in science and technology will never reach the ubiquitous small farms where increases in production efficiencies are needed. To expand educational opportunities in the developing world, on-line programs designed to strengthen education in production medicine, public health, epidemiology, immunology, parasitology, microbiology, and pathology that are offered in the United States should be provided with the resources to make them available globally.
American veterinary medicine should also advance food security through research on infectious diseases including parasitic diseases. Thermo-stable vaccines and rapid diagnostic tests are needed for new and re-emerging zoonotic and epizoonotic diseases and resistance to anthelmintics should be addressed. Beyond these areas is the need for research on improving animal productivity in the developing world, improving reproductive efficiency, nutrition, management, welfare, farm hygiene, and profitability. Solving the problems of nutrient management is especially important both in the United States and in the developing world. New sources of funding are needed to support these initiatives together with funds to greatly increase recruitment of veterinary students into high-quality research training programs.
In addition, students need to see opportunities for employment in international veterinary medicine after graduation. In spite of the singularly important services veterinary medicine has to offer, there are presently far too few job opportunities in global health. Jobs will not materialize if veterinary academia does not prepare students to work in the wide realms of global health. Veterinary academia and organized veterinary medicine should recognize the need as an important new dimension of the profession, provide the necessary curricular offerings, and make every effort to secure educational debt forgiveness as well as stipends for graduates interested in global health careers.
Presently, veterinary academia appears reticent about emphasizing One Health and global food security as there are few well-paying job opportunities advertised for graduates. But, because of the incalculable importance of food security and ecosystem health, organized veterinary medicine and the deans of veterinary schools should be encouraged to increase the visibility, standing, and potential of the profession to find solutions to these issues. Failure to do so will ensure that the present dearth of jobs will remain to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and the field will be subsumed by those less qualified to address the needs.
Global hunger, malnutrition, ecosystem health, and the spread of infectious diseases are increasingly becoming issues of public concern and financial resources are beginning to emerge in support of initiatives in these areas. Examples include Feed the Future—the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, and PREDICT—a global system to detect emerging diseases that can move from
wildlife to people. Equally important will be funding, possibly from nongovernmental organizations, to train veterinarians in the developing world in production medicine, biosecurity, animal welfare, food safety, and environmental sustainability.
As an indication of the concerns in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security is constructing the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to improve protection of the nation’s food supply and agricultural economy. The Food and Drug Administration is beginning to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act that will require veterinary medical research to prevent food contamination and address issues of food safety on the farm. Beyond these programs are others funded by different agencies addressing the impacts of global warming on ecosystem health, wildlife, and the movement of plant, animal, and human diseases.
To take advantage of these sources of funding, veterinary schools will need to demonstrate an increased commitment to building the kind of faculty that can lead cross-disciplinary studies, as well as finding partners to support graduate training and research projects in these fields.