New Zealand Solving Animal Methane Problem

New Zealand Solving Animal Methane Problem
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

The headline cheered women around the world, and chilled men to their very bones: "Scientists isolate animal fart gene."

According to a June story on, New Zealand's premier news website, New Zealand officials announced they had discovered the gene that causes methane in livestock. And could stop it.

"We believe we can vaccinate against (methane)," said the Honorable Phil Goff at a conference in Paris.

According to some agricultural experts, animal methane can be much more harmful to the environment than carbon emissions. Some experts even believe it's the animal's burp, and not the fart, that produces more methane. And according to a United Nations report, animal methane – both burps and farts – is responsible for 18% of all global warming gases. So it follows that giving a methane vaccine to all livestock around the world could help reduce global warming.

This is what has frightened men and excited women. The very thought that a man can be vaccinated for farting.

"Absolutely, I'm all for it," said Annie Stevens, a local fictional woman. "If I could stop my husband from stinking up the living room with a shot, I'd jab him with it myself."

"Amen," said another Kate Fields, her fictional neighbor. "It'd put an end to my years of suffering and torment. Then maybe he'd quit making the kids pull his damn finger."

"Hey, our bodies, our rights," said Jerry Stevens, Annie's fictional husband. "Ain't no way anyone should be able to take away my rights like that."

"You got that right, brother," said Ed Fields. "It's my First Amendment right. I'm expressing myself."

"It's not a First Amendment right, moron," said Kate. "It's first degree murder."

"Stop censoring us!" said Ed.

I'm not saying that farting is our inalienable right, or that we should proudly. . . offer our opinion's in public. However, I also don't think Jerry and Ed have anything to worry about. So far, scientists have only found the gene that causes methane in animal gas. That doesn't mean they have found the solution just yet. And when they do, they'll only be able to stop the stink, but not the gas itself. So Jerry and Ed can breathe a little easier for now, even if their wives can't.

Goff revealed New Zealand's discovery at the OECD Forum on Climate Change in Paris, France, organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a European think tank.

(Goff, is the Minister of Defense, Minister of Corrections, Acting Minister of Police, Associate Minister of Finance, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister, and Trade Minister. I know New Zealand is small, but surely they have enough people to spread the work around a little. Even if it's just every other weekend?)

But those Kiwis aren't done yet. Scientists at Gramina, a joint biotech firm between an Australian Research Center and a New Zealand rural services company, are creating a burpless grass for cows. They are working to suppress an enzyme in the grass that will help it be more easily digested, which will cause fewer burps, and thus, less methane.

According to Goff's website, he told conference attendees, "half of our emissions come from our agricultural sector and comprise methane and nitrous oxide instead of carbon dioxide. . . Although New Zealand represents only 0.2 per cent of global emissions, as a developed country we are committed to playing our part in implementing global solutions. Indeed, we have set ourselves a challenging goal by aspiring to be the world’s first carbon neutral country."

In other words, if global emissions were a dollar, New Zealand is responsible for two-tenths of one cent of it, while the U.S. and China together are responsible for fifty cents – half of all global emissions. But it's New Zealand that may have figured out a way to stop one of the biggest contributors to global warming, and the less well-known global Dutch oven.

"Do you think they'll make burp-reducing beer?" asked Kate Fields.

"Don't you trample my rights, woman!" hollered her husband, Ed. "The Declaration of Independence says I'm entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and burping makes me happy."

Goff told attendees that the New Zealand government has developed an Emissions Trading Scheme, which will help "big emitters" make a transition to a carbon neutral design. And to put their money where their mouth is, the New Zealand government has said their six core public agencies will be carbon neutral by 2012, and the other 28 will "be well on their way to carbon neutrality by the same date."

Unfortunately, Kate and Annie don't share Goff's optimism. They figure their husbands won't be carbon neutral in this lifetime, unless Goff unleashes his scientists on Ed and Jerry.

That shudder you just felt was the men of the world trembling in fear.