Trace element deficiency and toxicity in animals induces a wide variety of clinical effects although few are sufficiently specific to permit diagnosis without supporting investigation of changes in tissue trace element content or of the activity of metabolic processes influenced by trace element supply. Study of such trace element dependent processes has shown that extensive changes often arise before overt signs of disease appear. Some of these subclinical effects have pathological consequences and thus cannot be ignored when seeking correlations between geochemical anomalies and disease incidence. Many past estimates of the quantitative requirements of animals for the essential trace elements are imprecise. Although recent work is providing clearer definition of requirements, many common dietary components have a marked influence upon the efficiency with which such elements can be utilized from the diet. Recent evidence indicates that such antagonists influence both the absorption and the subsequent fate of essential and toxic elements in body tissues and these processes have to be taken into account when investigating the aetiology of disorders believed to be attributable to anomalies in trace element supply. Their existence is not always detectable if attention is confined to the trace element analysis of body tissues or to the nature of clinical lesions. Provided the complexity of soil-plant-animal relations with respect to trace element supply is fully recognized in the interpretation of data, the geochemical approach to the initial recognition of areas associated with a high risk of anomalies in trace element supply to animals and man has considerable potential value. This is already apparent from investigations upon the incidence of trace element problems in animals. As yet, its validity for similar purposes in man is less fully established.