Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Methane not a laughing mattter...

Blog post by Claire Packman, Egenis (on Session 4B - Green Growth and Life Science Innovation for Sustainability)

Methane emissions from livestock may make small children (and possibly not so small) giggle, but as Tara Garnett demonstrated in her talk ‘Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions’, they are in fact quite serious. Livestock account for something between 12-18 per cent of global emissions, and demand is set to double for meat and milk. Tara looked at the technological possibilities for reducing emissions, including increasing yields – “more milk per burp” was her memorable phrase, but concluded that by themselves they won’t be enough.

Emma Frow examined ‘The politics of plants’ reminding us that plants are a renewable yet finite resource. They are being re-evaluated in terms of their potential to contribute to the bioeconomy, but this is exposing tensions. While the idea that the traditional tension between economic growth and sustainability might be solved by the bioeconomy is an appealing one, held out as a “win-win”, different priorities shape views on how plants should be managed. There are huge questions around ownership, distribution and access.

Tara had posed this question, ‘What does genomics have to do with all of this?’, a question which Steve Hughes began to address in his talk, ‘Genomes and political crop traits’. He looked at some of the implications of the recent sequencing of the wheat genome, and the conflict between open access and private rights, referring back to session 1a on knowledge markets. “We all have to give a little bit’” he suggested, and urged, “The different actors must get together to unlock the potential of genomics.”

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