Hold the Methane: Grass Innovation Means Gas Free Cows

06/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A recent innovation from scientists in Australia and New Zealand offers hope for humans to continue our love affair with meat and dairy products. The proposed solution: A genetically modified grass that is more easily digested by cows, designed to allow them to graze without producing so much methane gas.

Reducing methane from agriculture is a significant goal in the fight to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to the EPA, livestock enteric fermentation--the process that produces methane as our animals digest their food--is the world's largest source of human-related methane emissions. In the U.S., livestock is the third-largest methane emitter (after landfills and natural gas systems), producing more than double the amount of methane as the next-largest source: coal mining.

The new grass is still in testing phases, and some scientists argue that by providing cows with more easily digestible carbs, we will actually increase the amount of methane they produce during their lifetimes. But Gramina responds that the new grass will help increase dairy cows' yield, and so even with a net increase in methane, the results will be lower methane-per-gallon of milk.

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