By Peter Allen in Paris Last updated: 3:38 PM BST 05/06/2008
New Zealand scientists claim to have developed a "flatulence inoculation" aimed at cutting down on the massive amount of methane produced by its sheep and cows. Such animals are believed to be responsible for more than half of the country's greenhouse gases, causing huge environmental problems.
But Phil Goff, New Zealand's trade minister, told an Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in Paris yesterday that a solution was in sight.
"Our agricultural research organisation just last week was able to map the genome ... that causes methane in ruminant animals and we believe we can vaccinate against" flatulent emissions, Mr Goff said.
Scientists in New Zealand have been working around-the-clock to reduce emissions from agriculture, such as changing the way fertilisers are used on pasture land, Mr Goff added.
Sheep, cattle, goats and deer produce large quantities of gas through belching and flatulence, as their multiple stomachs digest grass.
Ruminants are responsible for about 25 per cent of the methane produced in Britain, but in countries with a large agricultural sector, the proportion is much higher.
The 45 million sheep and 10 million cattle in New Zealand burped and farted about 90 percent of that country's methane emissions, according to government figures.
In comparison, livestock are responsible for about two per cent of the United States's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Under the Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming, New Zealand must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
In the past New Zealand's farmers have showed their disgust at government plans to impose an animal "flatulence tax" by sending parcels of manure to members of parliament.
The OECD conference is discussing climate change, trade and the global economy.