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FDA Approves First Waste-Gas-Reduction Drug for Cattle
By Dan Nosowitz
When we think of dangerous gases emitted by cattle, the logical first thought is of methane, let loose into the air by burps and farts to contribute to climate change. But cattle are complex creatures in their diversity of noxious fumes, and the FDA just approved the first drug to treat a lesser-known one.
Cattle produce ammonia—well, sort of. According to Penn State, it would be more accurate to say that cattle are very inefficient at breaking down nitrogen, which they take in as part of their diet. They pass that nitrogen out mostly in urine, where it's reasonably harmless. But there are enzymes in cattle feces that, when they mix with cattle urine, form ammonia and ammonia is not reasonably harmless. This is a problem at its worst in indoor facilities, especially larger farms and indoor dairy farms, where liquid and solid waste combine on floors.
Aside from the fact that ammonia smells really bad and can be an irritant for humans and animals around it, ammonia can also contribute to something called eutrophication. Eutrophication is the process by which, in this case, ammonia goes into water sources and promotes the mass growth of algae and other organisms, throwing off ecosystems and sometimes choking waterways. Excess of algae on the surface of ponds and lakes can end up killing marine animals.
The FDA this week sent its official approval of a drug called Experior, the first approved drug tasked with reducing gas produced by waste. According to studies conducted by both Elanco, the company that makes Experior, and others, Experior has no known health effects on cattle, with treated cattle showing about the same growth patterns and ailments as non-treated cattle.
There are, of course, other solutions to the ammonia problem. Experior reduces ammonia production by 14 to 18 percent, according to its FDA filing. Great! But other studies have been done in which farmers simply feed their cattle less nitrogen-containing protein—primarily soy—and those studies have shown that simply a better diet can reduce ammonia by up to 40 percent. Experior seems good! But feeding cattle appropriate diets—like grass—might also be good. Or better.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ana Santos Rutschman
The world of food and drug regulation was rocked earlier this month by the news of a change in leadership at the Food and Drug Administration. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned and will step down in early April. His temporary replacement is Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.
On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first 20 chemicals it plans to prioritize as "high priority" for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Given the EPA's record of malfeasance on chemicals policy over the past two years, it is clear that these are chemicals that EPA is prioritizing to ensure that they are not properly evaluated or regulated.
Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.
Judge Blocks Oil and Gas Drilling on 300,000 Acres in Wyoming Until Government Considers Climate Impacts
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."