Greenhouse Gas Friendly Livestock Production – for Oct. 11, 2010

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New tools, new strategies and the introduction of offset markets – all powered by scientific advances around the world – are driving progress and solutions to the greenhouse gas issue for livestock production.

This was the message that kicked off a week of leading-edge science discussion as more than 400 delegates from more than 39 different countries gathered in Banff, Alberta, Oct. 3-8, for the 4th International Greenhouse Gases and Animal Agriculture (GGAA) Conference.

A top-of-mind question for many was what the future of livestock production will look like amid a “regreening” global agenda, shaped by mounting pressures tied to a growing list of international trade and environmental agreements. The answer, while challenging, was clear – animal agriculture can and needs to become greener. The good news is science can help and is already pushing change with fresh thinking and innovations that are creating opportunities for livestock industries to lead a new generation of mitigation strategies.

“Greenhouse gas emissions have become one of the most challenging issues facing the world, and animal agriculture has an important role,” says GGAA President Dr. Junichi Takahashi of Japan. “As we look to the future, we are optimistic that animal agriculture can shift from its current status as a major greenhouse gas emitter into a leader in mitigation strategies.”

A key priority for many at the Banff conference is to find ways to reduce emissions without sacrificing production levels – a strategy critical not only to tackle the greenhouse gas challenge but also to help feed the world’s burgeoning population.

“Meeting this challenge will take continued progress and collaboration among scientists internationally, and collective action by industry and government,” Takahashi said during the opening session. “But there is no doubt, with the science progress we will see showcased at this conference, the opportunities are there. We are on the right path.”

Reducing methane

Global dialogue on greenhouse gas emissions have primarily focused on contributions from the burning of fossil fuels and from industrial processes such as petroleum refining. However, livestock industries have also been a substantial contributor facing increasing scrutiny and pressure to find improved mitigation approaches. The main gases emitted by the livestock industry are methane from the animals (enteric methane), and methane and nitrous oxide from manure handling and storage.

Dr. Frank O’Mara of Ireland pegged the current estimate of livestock’s contribution to total global greenhouse gas emissions in a range from eight to 10.8 per cent. There is opportunity, he says, to reduce the proportion of emissions through a variety of strategies such as improved feeding practices, specific agents and dietary additives, and longer-term structural and management changes and animal breeding. O’Mara also emphasized the need for new innovative approaches with greater potential for faster and more substantial emissions reductions, supported by incentives that compensate and reward livestock operations for cutting emissions.

Dr. Henry Janzen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada offered thoughts on the place of livestock in world with an increasingly green agenda. Just as people are encouraged to rely less on the automobile and more on alternative forms of transportation, there are growing calls for less livestock production in favour of alternative food sources and land uses perceived as more sustainable.

“Humans and their livestock are intertwined to such an extent that their symbiosis will not likely soon be severed,” says Janzen. “We will need to show creativity, imagination, and courage to envision new ways of melding animals into our ecosystems, not only to minimize harm, but to advance their regreening.”

More information on GGAA 2010 is available at www.ggaa2010.org.

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Humansandtheir livestockareintertwined tosuchanextentthat theirsymbiosiswillnot likelysoonbesevered.”

Henry Janzen

AAFC

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