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Stopping Gas Inflation

May 23rd, 2008

By John DeFore

Methane Machines

Nearly 20 years ago, a magical substance called Beano was introduced that negated an age-old dietary reality: If you took it with a meal, you could eat all the beans (or other troublesome foods) you wanted without worrying about having gas when you left the dinner table.

Beano might mostly be used to avoid social embarrassment, but now a team of scientists is applying a similar concept toward a much higher goal: combating global warming. Biotech scientists from Australia and New Zealand are working at Gramina to produce a special grass that will reduce the amount of methane cows burp up after eating it. (They believe the new variety also will be better at growing in hot climates.)

Methane, a greenhouse gas, is said to account for around 14% of contributions to global warming, and a single dairy cow can produce 550-700 liters of the stuff each day. (Whew!) By suppressing the development of an enzyme in grass, the team is making it more easily digestible to cows, reducing the methane that results as a byproduct of breaking down cellulose.

As with many mad-scientist notions, though, this new effort may not work out exactly as advertised. Some scientists not involved with the team have suggested that, due to chemical reactions in the cow’s gut, total methane emissions could actually increase instead — though they acknowledge that the same factors could make cows more productive, meaning that the milk/methane ratio for cows might still improve.

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media


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