Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Opinion: Can kangaroo farts save the world?

I had a friend send me this post recently. I first though it was a joke. I scrolled down to see if it was an article written in the Onion newspaper, but sadly it was not. A microbiologist at The University of Queensland, Associate Professor Athol Klieve is working with a team of microbiologists and genetic researchers to make cattle guts behave like kangaroos’.

Backstory: The majority of the methane in Earth's atmosphere comes from livestock. Methane absorbs energy which slows or prevents the loss of heat into space, which in turn keeps the Earth warmer than it needs to be (hence the name Greenhouse Gas effect).

According to the article, kangaroos like cows are also ruminants (a group of animals defined by their multiple stomachs), but where they differ is that majority of the byproducts that cows produce during digestion is methane. In kangaroos acetate is the byproduct which kangaroos then convert into energy.

Klieve is working on figuring out how to transfer the microbes responsible from kangaroos to cattle to aid in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, in essence making cow farts greener.

If you are like me then you may be thinking WHAT!! Then you may think, instead of spending money on more genetic modification of "food" why don't we take some of that money to teach and encourage people to, dare I say it, EAT LESS MEAT?!?!

Here are three reasons why:

1. The jury is still out on the long term effects that genetic modification has not only on our food sources (animals and plants), but also on our own health and the health of future generations.
2. Eating fewer cows will automatically decrease levels of greenhouse gas (I do not need a degree in microbiology for to figure out that one). If you want to lose weight, eat less. If you want to decrease your debt, spend less. If you want less cow farts messing up our ozone, eat less cows!
3. There are numerous studies that show the positive effects of a vegan diet on our health (as well as the health of the animals) and the environment.

Now if you are a clever omnivore reading this you may be thinking, "If kangaroo farts are greener, why don't we just eat kangaroos?" Well kangaroos only live in a very climate specific part of Australia so it would make it nearly impossible for the to be raised for food anywhere else (Although I am sure there is some scientist in some lab somewhere working on this).

So what do you think? Are kangaroo farts the key to saving our ozone and reducing greenhouse gas or should research funding be better spent elsewhere?

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