Why “GMO” Cows Are NOT The Answer to Climate Crisis

As per a recent new study in Europe, performed on 1000+ Holstein cows, a certain gene set, which is inheritable, is responsible for the Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGE) from cows which is worsening the climate crisis as we speak.

As per the EPA, an estimated 25% of Methane in the USA comes from cows.

This study has triggered fresh enthusiasm in the scientific community to engineer cows to be more “environment friendly,” by reducing the amount of Methane they produce as a part of their digestive process.

Though this looks like a reasonable thing to do, there are many flaws in this assumption which have not been looked into by the scientific community just yet.

Selective Breeding to Eliminate the Gene May Cause Other Health Problems in Cows

Though this study looks at the possibility of selectively breeding cows to eliminate the genes responsible for generation and release of Methane during the digestion process of cows, what is being grossly overlooked is that if nature put those genes in place in a cow, as part of their digestion system, there would probably have to be a reason for it.

In simple terms, this selective breeding, or alteration, of cows can lead to many complex problems which have not been studied in this research. Many times, these problems are discovered after multiple years, when the calf has already grown into a cow. By that time, the damage is already done and only partially repairable.

This is nothing unusual. This happens in scientific studies a lot of times, wherein the fallout of a certain new biological innovation is not fully studied, so it is premature to make conclusions based on the prima facie suggestions of the research. For further development, more research is required.

As it currently stands, the research does not present enough evidence to prove that the selective breeding of cows will not cause any other problem for cows.

No Incentive to STOP Cruelty to Cows

This research sees cows through the prism of consumerism, ignoring the grassroot problem that led to the Climate Crisis to begin with: the greed of humans which leads them to kill and torture animals for “nutritional needs” and “taste” which can just as easily be fulfilled by plant based diets.

This is not just a moral concept, this is the root cause of why the planet is crying out loud for attention. Factory farming of animals has a huge cost to the environment, even without Methane emissions. That aspect of livestock farming is entirely glossed over in this study, leading to simplistic solutions which give surface treatment to only one aspect of the problem, ignoring the larger problem threatening the existence of every species on the planet.

Beef production alone is a big liability on the environment, as it takes up a mind boggling amount of resources to produce even small quantities. Animal feed is one more contributor to the environmental stress caused to the planet, by means of GHGE emissions, taking up pastoral lands that could be used for growing food for humans, and adding to the pollution.

This approach does nothing to check the growing, irrational demand for animal products and meat, which is the cause that has led to the current disaster.

“By 2050 the global demand for animal products is projected to increase by 60% to 70%, and developing countries will have a lion’s share in this increase…. Furthermore, globally, the production, processing and transport of feed account for 45% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector.”

Review: Feed demand landscape and implications of food-not feed strategy for food security and climate change

A Shift in Diet & Consciousness of Food Is The Only Way

No matter how unrealistic a change of diet may look like, that is the only way to solve the problem at the grass root level. This awakened and transformed awareness of what you eat is required in consumers as well as those who do factory farming of livestock. The farms need to be based on a Cownomics model, which ensures economic well being as well as health for animals and humans both. Any other solution, no matter how scientifically appealing, will be treating the symptoms, not the disease, of Climate Crisis.

References:

A heritable subset of the core rumen microbiome dictates dairy cow productivity and emissions

Can methane burps be bred out of cows?

Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990-2016

Review: Feed demand landscape and implications of food-not feed strategy for food security and climate change

Cover Photograph by author.