Reproductive studies on farm animal species have been part of the underpinnings that have led to the ready availability of low cost, safe, and nutritious food in the developed world. They have also made a significant contribution to reproductive medicine. Yet at a time when world demand for food is increasing and the National Institutes of Health budget is on course to double between 1998 and 2003, funding for animal agriculture remains low, erratic, and politically vulnerable. There are also those who question whether the food animals have value any longer as comparative models for studying reproduction as it relates to human health and well being. In this paper I describe how such research is presently funded at the federal level and discuss why support for agricultural science is in decline, despite many unmet needs. I then suggest that the human genome project and the developing areas of comparative gene mapping and functional genomics are beginning to provide new impetus to studies on farm animal species. Finally I argue that although rodents and, above all, the mouse, with all its genetic advantages, occupy lofty positions as models for studying reproductive processes and their abnormalities in the human, there will continue to be a need to take a broader comparative approach that will inevitably involve farm animals.
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