Dr Mike McGrew and Julian Hosking
Dr Mike McGrew is based at The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, which is highly regarded in the genetics world. He has recently made major technical, scientific and practical steps in the field of cryogenic storage of viable avian genetics. Mike’s work has resulted in the possibility of starting a poultry gene bank, which would safeguard the genetic bio-diversity of at risk native poultry breeds. Given the present UK wide outbreak of Avian Flu, this work is all the more important.
The ‘frozen aviary’ that Mike has created will act as a seed bank for poultry, storing stem cells which produce eggs destined to hatch male or female offspring. To date, Mike and his team have collected more than 500 samples from 25 different breeds which will be viable for decades. Mike wants to expand his work to include, in particular, rare varieties of geese and the RBST are keen to work with him to do so.
Julian Hosking worked for English Nature (which then became Natural England) from 1998 until his retirement in 2016. During his career, he ceaselessly campaigned, both in a professional and private capacity, for native breeds of farm livestock to be valued and considered as part of the UK’s biodiversity.
In 2005, Julian was integral to the introduction of the Native Breeds at Risk grazing supplement as part of the Common Agricultural Policy reform. This achievement has been maintained in the latest round of subsidy reform, despite some opposition. The supplement has been of real and practical benefit to many rare breeds, and for the first time offered a financial incentive for UK farmers to reintroduce native breeds to their farms, and several previously rare breeds have become ‘success stories’ as a result.
Julian is an active, helpful and courteous member of RBST and the Grazing Animals Project. As a member of the DEFRA Farm Animal Genetic Resources Committee, Julian has provided a vital link between rare breed keepers, conservation practitioners and the Government, so that real change and improvements can be made.