The New Concept of Eco-Bioeconomy in the Elaboration of Strategies for Safety Food and Defence Food

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Authors: Marcel Matiuti1, Alexandru T. Bogdan2, Carmen-Luminita Matiuti3

Introduction

The 21st century represents the domination of the genetic industry in what concerns the animal productions. At the European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders (EFFAB) the idea that the influence of animal production upon agriculture is vital has been put forward.4 Every nation has the right to decide upon their food, upon what is healthy and accessible. According to the concept of Food Sovereignty, the global increase of the population led to searching feasible solutions so that the food bio-security could be ensured by the countries of the world and also their independence in this respect. For instance, the cattle industry needs to double the production by 2050. The problem is whether this production succeeds or not to compete with the energy and food production. In 2012 a milk cow generally provides 12000 kg of milk per lactation period, but this means that the animal is given large quantities of concentrated food. For the future, it is important that the main nourishment for milk cows be pastures, meaning that they produce more milk and meat per acre,5 which is exactly what academic Alexandru T. Bogdan claims about eco-bio-economy: more milk and meat produced, but highly qualitative and respectful to the environment.

Biotechnology solutions for livestock is economically competitive

Nowadays there is a great amount of nebulosity regarding the application of bio-technologies in the genetic progress. The difference between marker-assisted selection (MAS) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not explained well enough. The two are different bio-technologies. In the case of MAS selected genes are used, which are either markers or targets selected by the reproducer. The complicated legislative process of obtaining approvals in the case of GMOs is not met in the case of MAS, but the costs for GMOs are relatively lower than those for MAS. In order for the MAS bio-technology to develop, sophisticated infrastructure is needed and large investments have to be made in equipments, laboratories and specialists.6 In what GMOs are concerned, the problems here faced are scientific but also social and economic.

As we have stated before, the animal genetics industry is dominated by several big companies and the majority of the GMOs belong to them.7 By having the patent for these GMOs, the companies earn huge amounts of money, claiming that they have invested very much in research.

Genetically modified organisms should be carefully monitored both in the case of plants and in that of animals since plants represent the food for animals and, in turn, the animals, being a source of food for people, can spread various allergies, cause high resistance to antibiotics and even have a role in cancer occurrence. The good part about GMOs is that the animal products are obtained in a much shorter time, the animal themselves have a higher resistance to diseases and, as some specialists prove, there is no difference in quality between the animal products obtained through GMO and the ones obtained from animals which have been traditionally raised. In the future, however, there might be a significant raise in the number of diseases spread from animals to humans, since both the human population and the animal population are under a continuous growth. Concentrating only on industrial animal production requires a good bio-security to monitor the diseases which might pose a risk for people’s health and this means using the safety food strategy. A good example is the very pathogenic virus H5N1 which has migrated from poultry to pigs and to humans and has seriously affected the pig farms in the West of Romania in the recent years. The fact that this disease is not known well enough (the symptoms are not clear, the way in which the whole situation must be handled is not clear either) has led up to serious consequences in Banat a few years ago when 40000 pigs had to be killed. By animal genetics industry the possibility of preventing diseases such as this one will be much higher and the appropriate management of the situation will be much more available.

Problems such as climate change, high economic competition, shortage of fresh water, possible natural disasters and even wars and terrorism have led to new concepts as solutions: safety food and defence food. The first one refers to the fact that the population must be ensured with enough food throughout time and the second one to the prevention of terrorist attacks upon sources of food.

An important role in the elaboration and the implementation of these new concepts of Safety Food, Food Security and Defence Food is played by the Transylvanian Rare Breeds Association, given its large database regarding animal husbandry and agriculture in Romania, especially in Transylvania and Banat and its elaboration of the Implementation Strategy.

The importance of the local breeds for the animal genetics industry

The animal genetics industry is developing quickly, especially in the context of globalisation. Basically, the entire research in this domain is being conducted only by a few international companies which have high-tech labs and highly qualified personnel. These companies control the whole animal market (especially the one for milk production), even the aquaculture. They have in stock a huge number of genes and they use the strategy that relies on ”integration starting from genetics, to farm factors, to fork”.8 The animal genetics industry uses selection methods through markers, modified genetics and cloning. Some specialists think that cloning helps spreading the gene production, growth acceleration and production control by specific technologies. For Romania and for other countries as well, this genetic industry has both a positive and a negative impact. In the case of cattle, pigs and poultry, massive amounts of biological material is being imported. The development of research labs in this domain would lead to an increase in the number of animals, as well as to obtaining high economical performances. There are some labs with the necessary apparatus, but there are no specialists especially in biogenetic engineering and Banks for collection and storage of genetic biodiversity in the domain, nor university teams.

The negative impact of the genetic industry is that it uses a small number of animal breeds (though they have excellent economic characteristics). For example, in the case of cattle, for the milk production, breeds as Holstein, Brown Swiss and Jersey are used and in the case of pigs – The Large White, Landrace, Pietrain, Duroc and Hampshire. The reduced number of breeds is one of the factors which lead to genetic diversity erosion since the breeds formed in Romania are excluded on economic grounds. By continuing in this manner, all animal breeding and production in Romania could become subject to the big international companies with unforeseen consequences.

The Romanian authorities have led such politics which have favoured the erosion of the national zoogenetic patrimony. One of the big mistakes made was that the state gave up all of the SEMTEST unities, where seminal material used to be collected from cattle, in favour of an international company. In this way, all the bulls of Romanian breeds were practically wiped out. The import of biological material made the national breeds such as the Romanian Spotted Cattle, the Brown Cattle of Maramures, Pinzgau of Transylvania or the Black Pinzgau to rapidly decrease in number. The last Romanian Spotted bull was taken away from the SEMTEST unities in 2006. It is known that the first step towards destroying a breed is taking away the bulls. The bulls left are from local isolated breeds from certain regions in Romania where they are used in natural reproduction, without being tested and the quality of the calves varies. There are populations of cattle which are almost unknown to the state’s institutions, such as the Pustertaler of Transylvania or Mountain Cattle (Mocanitza). We need to develop as soon as possible a programme meant to protect the cattle breed, taking into account that all the Mocanitza cattle owners are peasants with low financial resources who breed the cattle because of the tradition, because they consider it is well adapted to the hard mountain areas with poor grasslands or because they love this cattle breed. Mocanitza cattle breed is the best adapted to the high areas of the Carpathian Mountains. By preserving this cattle breed we can avoid an irreversible loss of genes and we can preserve the identity of the rural communities in the Carpathian Mountains. Losing existing traditional cattle breeds will definitely change the way rural communities live.9

In Romania, the selection of the cattle is reduced to picking the seminal material from import bulls, from some catalogues, without the official control of the milk production or of the cows which had the male calves. The specialized institutions have gone bankrupt or have chosen to put aside the ‘burden’ of animal husbandry, as it is the case of the Lovrin Research Institute or of the Animal Selection Office in Banat and so many other organizations. In the exhibitions for agriculture there is a very small number of animals exhibited and more than often their record productions are presented only based on the data coming from the owner. Some breeds of cattle are exhibited as being local breeds only in order to receive certain subsidies. This is the case of import breeds such as Fleckvieh, Brown Swiss or Pinzgauer, which are often presented as being Romanian Spotted, Brown of Maramures or Transylvanian Pinzgau. This happens in the case of other species, as well, for example: the sheep breed Ratka of Banat, which is the only Romanian population of sheep, with the exception of some isolated specimens), has 65 pure blood specimens and approximately 600 half-blood specimens in 2012. Some breeders enrol the half-blood specimens in the exhibitions as being pure blood, only to get the above mentioned subsidies. Along this line, there are some specialists who claim that a breed can be considered local breed if there are frozen embryos or seminal material coming from this breed. But as L. Avon stated in 2011, who needs a breed that exists only in frozen form? In the case of pigs and poultry the biological material comes almost in its entirety from other countries. The breeds and animals populations formed in Romania, both in the case of pigs and in that of poultry, are represented by a very small number of specimens and, in addition to this, in many cases the breed’s purity is not well known. The erosion or even destruction of the zoo-genetic patrimony of Romania – at least for pigs and poultry – can easily be seen as a way of diminishing our “Safety Food” and it can be considered even as a form of masked terrorism, since it is the object of the “Defense Food” strategy. The state’s institutions didn’t handle properly the situation of the Animal Productions in Romania, favouring the massive imports. And there are cases when these imports were not checked in what concerns the prevention, control and elimination of sick animals. Animal import was not monitored properly and there was no promotion for the animal’s health and productivity.

The agriculture is seen as a source of immediate profit an this fact favoured heavily imports of animals to the detriment of the local ones. Thus, genetic diversity has been reduced. The future will prove that by the irretrievable loss of certain genes it will be impossible to create and develop an advanced technology in animal production because the combinations of these genes are the basis of this technology. It is risky to rely only on a couple of breeds because in the future there might appear many variables and the irrelevant breeds of today may suddenly become important and ensure the food safety for the population.

It was a crucial point for maintaining the Romanian zoogenetic patrimony when the „Academic David Davidescu” Study and Research Center for Agrosylvic Biodiversity was inaugurated in February 2007 within the National Institute for Economic Research from the Romanian Academy Bucharest. Academic Alexandru T. Bogdan, the founder director, a well known international personality for agricultural and forestry issues, has managed, in a short time and together with a group of remarkable researchers, to involve the Center in numerous international programmes and projects. The results have been presented in various symposiums and congresses in the country or abroad and the papers have been published in quality specialized journals. In this centre there has been conceived the first post-doctoral studies in our country, whose aim was that of offering further support for the young researchers who had gained a doctoral degree.

Academic Alexandru T. Bogdan, throughout his numerous partakes in national and international congresses, has presented scientific papers in which he proved that Romania is a country where agriculture can further develop, especially in the field of animal husbandry, introducing a concept which has been very much appreciated by specialists: „Romania – Green Power”. This mean that Romania is a country which can sustain its population and can develop more projects between 2014 – 2020, even until 2050. Romanian agriculture could support the food for its population without any import (in 2011 70% of the food was imported). In his studies claims that the value of the rural areas in Romania must be well preserved and he promotes the necessity of having a connection between the local animal breeds and the preservation of a certain lifestyle specific to certain communities. The above-mentioned centre initiated the first DNA Bank in Romania.

The concept of Eco-bioeconomy

Bio-economy, a concept elaborated and promoted by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994) resulted in a theory which represents a revolutionary way inside economic concepts. Contrary to the previous way of thinking, theory of bioeconomy placed the industrial revolution and technical progress on one side and live world evolution and ecology on the other side. Such way N. Georgescu- Roegen, the economist with Romanian origins, got a decisive clarification with clear connotations in contemporary political economy.10

The Green power is amplified by biodiversity. It is obvious that a sustainable economy of the future has to become a bio-economy, adapted to the rural area and based on a large biodiversity that will create first of all an opportunity for more producers of primary organic synthesis and further on for a longer line of consumers up to the final state of dead organic matter that must be mineralized. In this context, Nicolas Georgescu-Roeger’s worldwide-known bioeconomics paradigm of improving the agricultural efficiency becomes most topical, particularly as mankind’s limited natural resources are being depleted.

Besides these new concepts presented so far, Academic Alexandru T. Bogdan comes with a new concept presented in his paper Eco-physiological aspects of the traditional product (slow) Food and its Eco-Bioeconomics impact at the International Symposium of Veterinary Medicine in Cluj-Napoca in 2011. In this paper which have to do with meat and milk products, it is very much highlighted the importance of obtaining animal products of a very good quality. This quality cannot be obtained unless one uses inclusive from local breeds.

Defence Food – new strategies, compulsory for Romania

The strategy of development in animal husbandry in Romania (by developing the genetic research) and the concept of Eco-bioeconomy which protects the national zoogenetic patrimony are in fact means of applying the Defence Food principle. The new issues regarding the possibility of a terrorist attack demand a reorganization of the state’s institutions in what agriculture is concerned, in order to simplify things and to be sure of what each institution is responsible for. In this direction, the Gene Bank founded by academic Alexandru T. Bogdan through the Study and Research Centre for agrosylvic biodiversity, together with the laboratories capable of determining whether the food is contaminated or not, represents an important link for Food Defence.

The term „Defence Food” appeared between 1960-1970. Nowadays there are approximately 200 definitions and 450 indicators of „Food Security”.11 Each definition refers to the ability of a region or country to ensure that necessary measures are taken when it comes to protecting its population. By preserving the traditional recipes, which have not only a food value, but a cultural, political, social and symbolical one, we help protect the population’s food and the style of life. The concept of Food Security has the role of explaining each of the afore mentioned values.

Besides, this Defence Food strategy is completely new in Romania. Food Defence term does not appear in the literature in Romania. Is a new term that can be explained in Romanian with “food protection, agricultural production and livestock terrorist attack” or in Romanian “apararea alimentelor”. Preserving the traditional foods and of old recipes is another link in the Defence Food chain. ”Slow-Food unites the pleasure of the food with responsibility and harmony with nature” is a motto for Slow Food promotion.

In the Defence Food strategy one can observe other links, according to USDA:

  • „Close monitoring of the genetically modified organisms
  • Prevention of crops contamination which serve as nourishment for animals
  • A careful and permanent monitoring of water quality
  • Preservation of high standards and clear recipes regarding the animal products
  • Knowing what effects certain products have on people
  • Strict control of animal migration and of the papers certifying this
  • Protecting the research laboratories
  • Labelling the products and description of they are made of”

In Romania there is a risk of food terrorism because the state’s management of these situations is not up to date.

It is well known the fact that numerous seeds or animals are imported in Romania. There are various firms or foundations which offer seeds or give away free seminal material whose background is not known, nor the effect it can have on people’s health or on the environment. Animal transportation by trucks is not well checked in customs. Animal imports have been made from countries which are not in the European Union (a large number of sheep comes from the Balkan region). In 2012 sheep of a certain breed were imported but the animals didn’t have the respective phenotype, in this case they weren’t actually of the Romanov breed. Pigs, horses and poultry can easily be imported from countries outside European Union. On the other hand, there are animals imported from countries within the European Union but which are not properly checked. Such was the case of a pack of gestant cattle brought in Banat which subsequently have been proven to carry infectious diseases some of which could have been given to man.

In August 2008 a charity organisation donated hybrids of mother bees (they had been cross bred with the African Bee) to a bee keeper in Salaj county (Transylvania). The effect was that the populations of bees which developed from those mother bees were very aggressive and had a low productivity.

Also, there have been carried out tests for a series of chemical substances for crops, but in some cases the origin and the effect are not known. The same goes for testing some medicines for veterinarian use. At a research centre in Banat a certain vaccine was tested on a unknown number of cows which were the property of peasants, only to reveal later that in fact it had been a vaccine destined for developing infertility in women.

These are only a few of the reasons why the Food Defence Plan must be implemented. By having this plan, it is contribute for more secure food supply. The strategy for food defence reduce the risk of unsafe product and economic loss, reduce the need for additional regulation and company liability. It is necessary to apply to all aspects of the farm-to-table supply chain and is designed to spark thought and discussion with stakeholders.

Animal transportation from the farm to the slaughterhouse and then to the place where the meat or milk are processed represents a contamination risk with various germs, toxins etc. The transportation of the animal products from the farm to the processing factories is a real danger as well because the possible terrorists may have a good opportunity to attack the products using various agents and thus committing acts of bioterrorism according to the Food Defence Plan of USDA:

  1. Biological – bacteria, toxins, viruses, parasites
  2. Chemical – liquid, solid, vapors
  3. Radiologic agents –radioactive elements
  4. Physicall agents

Animals are still being raised and crops are still being planted in areas with a high radioactivity, for example in the SV of Banat. The products from these areas are then sold all throughout the country.

One of the major problems is water quality. In many areas there are no water quality measurements, therefore not knowing if the water is good or bad for the animals and for the people as well (the press has written about some cases of new born babies who have died because of polluted water). It is necessary that some pilot-regions be founded, along the main rivers in Romania. In these well delimited geographical areas research will be conducted on the main oncogene factors for the soil, water, air, plants and animals and which have a major risk upon people’s health, on the environment and on economy. In Bara area from Banat there are numerous natural springs but where there are no tests done. It is interesting, however, that the sheep population in the area have a high rate of certain diseases. There are drills in Ivanda, Timis county where the experts have concluded that the water is toxic and that it cannot be drunk under no circumstances. It is mandatory that tests be run to determine the oncogene factors which could cause cancer in humans and animals.

Besides these measures for Food Defence strategy, there is also the Programme for protection and conservation of the genetic diversity of Romanian bioresources, including the establishment of a Network of Animal Germplasm Banks for the five major species of domestic animals that are very important in Romania. These banks maintain the genetic variability and improve the performances of those animals. According to the Defence Food strategy, certain measures will be taken in zoogenetic farms in order to eliminates the risk factors. Access for outsiders will be much more restrictive and seasonal workers will be regularly checked. The strategy includes the identification of the zoogenetic activities and products processing which represent a risk factor. These activities will be introduces gradually: low risk, medium, critical, catastrophic. There needs to exist a strategy for risk situations, coordinated regionally or nationally in case some incidents happen which can affect the animal husbandry or the feeding of the population.

In Romania animal products are imported from all over the world. The commercialization of these products is done differently, including in restaurants. Measures for food security must be taken for all animal products existent in Romania, be it local or imported. Food defense becomes an obligatory strategy for the identification and prevention of all potential risks regarding the biosecurity of the population’s food.

The big transnational companies apply these concepts with maximum security which gives them economic stability through the high level of trust people put into their products and services, all over the world. The measures taken by these companies should be set as a model for other firms in this domain. The transnational companies apply the 5 basic principles of USFDA – Alert Food Defence Awareness. USA „identifies five key points that industry and business can use to decrease the risk of intentional food contamination at their facility:
A – Assure
L – Look
E – Employees
R – Reports
T – Threat .”

According to these procedures vigilance is required in checking the suppliers, this is how big companies are successful. For example, tourists, even if they are not consumers of fast food, often use products of companies such as McDonalds, KFC or Coca Cola because they are convinced that there is nothing to worry about in relation to the quality of their products. But in Romania there are still a lot of cases when people end up in hospital due to some food poisoning, for example with salmonella, after they have eaten in restaurants, ordered from some catering service or bought products in a supermarket. Food terrorism is also the fact that the labels on foods are changed to overpass their due date. Every company should take into consideration the possibility of acts of vandalism and sabotage and have to keep the bio-eye open all the time. They have to deposit their products in safe places, to limit the access of strangers, to focus inspections, to identify the areas that are possibly exposed, to check the supplier routes, to encourage the employees to act food defence – wise.

Periodically, there has to be evaluated the management efficiency, including the managing of certain new problems and controlling the food. Any product that may be thought to endanger people’s health must be taken away from consumption and the authorities must be notified about this.

Defence food and Safety food do not mean only that the quality of food must be ensured, but also that the quantity of it is enough for the population. Lack of food and rural poverty favours child slavery. If there is enough food for the population, the number of thefts will be diminished at least in the vegetation and animal sector. Many crop owners say that if they planted corn or vegetables, the crops would be stolen so they use monoculture of wheat, for example, which is harder to steal. The same goes for animal husbandry where the animals must be kept under strict surveillance.

In order for the population’s health to be monitored, certain studies will be carried out on communities. Premarket reviews (e.g. colour additives) will be taken into account and labs will be accredited for developing ways of detecting pathogens and chemical contamination of food and for studying their effect on population’s health and the factors which contribute to the strength of the biological contamination. The data obtained will be then analysed. We have to distinguish between natural diseases and the ones which appear by man’s will. In the case of the latter, one can observe an unusual increase in the number of sick, intoxicated or even dead animals. The press often signals the cases when certain individuals poison animals, set fire to their nourishments and stables, or poison the crops so that the game will then eat the crops (one example would be the case in Curtici area (Arad region) where approximately 159 specimens of deer have been poisoned in 2012). The operational plan for these kinds of situations will be made known to the farmers. The farmer or the vet must be the first to identify the animal disease and to spread the word about it. A report to the specialized institutions must be immediately given. This Plan will contain a strong programme for efficient management in case of risks, including international ones.

Conclusions

This material is set within the action plans elaborated by FAO in Interlaken (Switzerland) 2007 as well as the ones in Rio Agenda 2020. World governments owe to take the necessary measures to ensure food quality and quantity for the population of those countries. High food prices and hunger could be a favourable environment for the emergence of terrorism and conflict.

The importance of the elaboration of the Food defence strategy for Banat is more and more obvious and this can be done through a plan for Defence food coordination, including for special situations management. Safety food and defence food in Banat should be correlated with similar actions in Serbia and Hungary. People in various regions of Romania should become aware of the fact that their communities must get involved in establishing the defence food and the food security strategy. The adopted strategy will then have to help social justice, economic development in order to consolidate the five components of food security: quality, quantity, universality, stability, dignity. It is necessary to elaborate the plan for Preventive Food Defence Procedures for Banat region.

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  1. Banat’s University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine,
    Calea Aradului 119, Timisoara, Romania, matiutimarcel@yahoo.com 

  2. Romanian Academy Bucharest, Romania 

  3. Technicall College “Azur”, Calea Martirilor 64, Timisoara, Romania 

  4. Susanne Gura, Livestock genetics companies, League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development, 2007, FAO 

  5. Thomas Group, Opinions, 2007, Dad-net FAO 

  6. Marker-assisted selection: Current status and future perspectives in crops, livestock, forestry and fish (in English only), FAO, 2007, reprinted 2009 – http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a1120e/a1120e00.htm 

  7. Susane Gura, 2011 

  8. Susanne Gura, Livestock genetics companies, League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development, 2007, FAO 

  9. Matiuti M., 2010 

  10. Bogdan A. T. and col., 2009 

  11. Hoddinott J., Food security in practice technical guide series, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), UK, 2012 

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