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Global science drives GHG friendly production


October 8, 2010
By Manure Manager

October
4, 2010, Banff, AB – 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.

October
4, 2010, Banff, AB – 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
over 400 delegates – many of them leading researchers – from more than 39
different countries gathered in Banff, Alberta, Oct. 3 to 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 “re-greening” 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
remarked 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.”

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 percent.
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 alternate 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 re-greening.”

One
major shift set to kick the re-greening agenda into high gear is the
introduction of markets for livestock-based offsets. Dr. Katherine Baylis of
the University of Illinois outlined the merits of offset markets where
livestock operators can qualify for carbon credits for the capture of methane
by utilizing management technologies such as methane digesters.

“With
the potential for livestock-based carbon offsets, livestock producers can play
a large role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously earning
carbon credits,” says Baylis.

The
opening session provided just a flavor of the week’s jam-packed agenda
featuring leading science and perspective from around the world. More
information on GGAA 2010, including a link to a Special Meeting Report on the
conference, with feature articles and blog items posted throughout the week, is
available at www.ggaa2010.org.


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