Innovation in animal health as a key contributor to the EU’s sustainability objectives

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Credit: Zoetis Inc.

Jamie Brannan is President of International Operations at Zoetis Inc.

Lawmakers have set the political goals for enhanced agricultural sustainability, including higher animal welfare standards, antibiotic use reduction, and decreasing the impact of animal husbandry on the planet:

  • In June 2021, the European institutions concluded their discussions on the regulatory framework of the future Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) to implement the political objectives for more sustainable agriculture in practice.
  • In the Farm to Fork Strategy published in May 2020, the European Commission delineated its vision for enhancing the sustainability of EU agriculture, including the target of a 50% reduction in antimicrobial sales in livestock & aquaculture by 2030 and carbon-neutrality by 2050.
  • The European Parliament is due to adopt in October 2021 its recommendations in its own-initiative report on the Farm to Fork Strategy calling for tangible improvements to animal welfare at farm level and mitigation of the spread of zoonotic diseases.
  • The Parliament seeks to finalize its own-initiative report on on-farm animal welfare by December 2021. The European Commission’s Fitness Check aims to see which EU animal welfare legislation needs to be revised to align it with the latest scientific evidence, broaden the scope and make it easier to enforce.

Ambitious sustainability targets require a legislative framework that incentivizes farmers’ access to and adoption of effective tools and solutions to optimize animal health and wellbeing.

  • Improving animal health is a prerequisite for good animal welfare.
  • Innovation in animal health is critical to accomplish agricultural sustainability, encompassing the financial sustainability of our farmers, as well as environmental and social sustainability challenges.
  • Healthy animals play an important role in protecting public health – many human diseases have their origin in animals.

In response to these demands and trends, Zoetis is investing in a ‘Continuum of Care’ approach with four interconnected stages of animal care:

  • Predict – accurate predictions of e.g. disease challenges, e.g. through genomic testing
  • Prevent – management interventions and products (e.g. vaccines) to prevent disease and avoid the need to treat it in the future.
  • Detect – actively applying diagnostics and other sources of data for routine surveillance and to ensure accurate and timely diagnosis; and
  • Treat – responsibly using therapeutics, including antibiotics, to manage disease when the need arises to protect animal health and welfare.

These interconnected solutions enable veterinarians and farmers to most effectively and sustainably manage the health and wellbeing of the animals in their care.

New innovations in Precision Animal Health – capturing and using multiple sources of farm data to create insights and inform management interventions – can help farmers and veterinarians to move from group-level care to tailor care to each individual animal’s needs and doing so with improved accuracy and timeliness. This has the potential to greatly improve animal health, welfare, production efficiency and environmental sustainability.

In addition, access to new sources of farm data and/or new abilities to use data and sophisticated analytics – already in use and developing in other sectors (e.g. human healthcare) – has the potential to create insights into areas of farm production not currently practical today. Most notably, this includes the ability to objectively measure, quantify and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and to objectively monitor, in real time, a comprehensive assessment of animal welfare.

Complementing our innovative portfolio of genomic predictions, preventative and therapeutic solutions, Zoetis is committed to supporting farmers and veterinarians with data-driven Precision Animal Health solutions to better predict, detect, and manage health and well-being and assist our customers to achieve their production and sustainability goals.

We work closely with veterinarians and farmers every day to understand their challenges and goals, and to deliver solutions addressing their most important unmet needs.

Creating these solutions requires significant investment from all concerned stakeholders. Volatile commodity prices and increasing input prices (most notably feed, labor, and energy) can make these investments challenging for farmers.

With the next CAP policy and ambitious national strategic plans and the conceptualization of the Farm to Fork Strategy, lawmakers have the opportunity to create an environment that incentivizes innovation and the adoption of innovations to support advancement towards more sustainable agriculture.

As Zoetis, we are committed to keep innovating and re-imagining animal health to constantly renew our social license to operate. Sustainability is embedded into the way we operate – through strategic decision-making, business processes, and formal commitments to environmental, social, and governance responsibilities.

Working with stakeholders, customers, and communities, together we can build a healthier, more sustainable world!


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