By Rowena Pullan @ CH4 Global
January 18, 2023
Why CH4 Global is publishing a Myth Busting series
These days, a good deal of attention is being paid to Asparagopsis-based methane mitigation, and rightly so. After all, the emerging industry using Asparagopsis seaweed in feed additives for ruminant animals has the potential to reduce enteric methane by up to 90%. If adopted for only 10% of the world’s cattle, it would deliver more climate benefit than decommissioning 50 - 100 million fossil-fueled cars (depending on weather measuring GWP 100 or 20).*
Everyone—investors, partners, Climate Tech and Ag Tech innovators, and the media—wants to know what is real and what is hype.
We’d like to bring clarity by answering the most common questions people ask us, and in the process, shed light on some finer points of this fast-evolving solution area.
Change is hard. Creating a new industry requires a lot of change, and we want to help create clarity for the benefit of the industry. To that end, we are publishing a Myth Busting blog series specifically to educate through reference to scientific articles and clarification of reports in an effort to help investors, food producers, the media, and consumers, better understand the science behind this new emerging industry of methane reduction in ruminant animals.
First. The Safety Myth.
TRUE: ASPARAGOPSIS IS SAFE.
We’re often asked about whether Asparagopsis seaweed, the star ingredient in our line of products for reducing enteric methane in ruminant animals, is safe. The short answer is yes. Despite the newness of its use in our new industry, Asparagopsis has a long history. What’s not widely known is that native Hawaiians have been consuming this seaweed for well over a century as an additive to traditional foods. Our Asparagopsis-based feed supplement formulations are deemed as safe for the animals that consume them, for the people who consume meat and dairy products from these animals, and for the people who handle our products because we ensure that we stay well below all set regulated guidelines for consumption.
WHAT MAKES ASPARAGOPSIS—OR ANY MATERIAL—SAFE?
When it comes to assessing the safety of a material, there are key concepts that may not be obvious at first, such as how long someone might be exposed and the degree to which they’re exposed. Just like with many foods and liquids we consume every day, like micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fruits and seeds, alcohol, salt, and even water, there are ranges that help us stay healthy and are well within safety limits as defined by scientific studies. Asparagopsis, or one of the key bioactives, bromoform, is no different. Set limits have been established, and our specific proprietary formulations stay well below those limits of exposure.
WHAT’S IN ASPARAGOPSIS?
Our Asparagopsis-based feed supplement formulations are intended for daily consumption by cattle and other ruminants. What natural materials are they are exposed to as a result, in what quantities, and for how long?
CH4 Global’s products contain whole natural Asparagopsis seaweed, not extracts or parts of the plant that can be concentrated. Asparagopsis contains minerals, trace metals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Key to the enteric methane-reducing effects of Asparagopsis is its rich bromoform content.
You may have heard of bromoform, probably in the context of chlorinated water. Indeed, bromoform can be a by-product of water chlorination, and drinking chlorinated water is the most likely way people are exposed to bromoform. Because exposure to high levels of bromoform is hazardous to human health, government regulatory agencies have performed risk assessments and set acceptable limits for bromoform in drinking water, established from safety endpoints. Our products and the bromoform they contain are as safe as drinking a glass of water.
Another key component of Asparagopsis is iodine, a micro-mineral and an essential nutrient for ruminant animals and people. They can experience iodine deficiency as well as iodine toxicity, and so government agencies work with members of the scientific community to assess the health risks of either too little or too much iodine in the body and set acceptable limits. Our products are formulated to ensure we are within these limits.
IS ASPARAGOPSIS SAFE FOR RUMINANT ANIMALS?
For our Asparagopsis-based feed supplement formulations, the recommended daily intake per animal is such that its resulting exposure to bromoform does not exceed the acceptable limits for bromoform in drinking water. This safe, relatively low level of daily intake by ruminant animals is nevertheless sufficient to deliver a radical reduction of their enteric methane emissions through inhibiting an enzyme that makes methane that is then burped out.
Because the animals that consume our feed supplement formulations may also be exposed to bromoform and iodine from other sources, our products are labeled appropriately with guaranteed maximum levels of both substances.
The Asparagopsis studies that have been conducted so far to investigate its methane-reducing effects in ruminants involved exposure up to 147 days in cows. In these studies, Asparagopsis continued to be effective at the level originally observed.
IS ASPARAGOPSIS SAFE FOR HUMANS?
As mentioned earlier, most people are exposed daily to low levels of bromoform in chlorinated drinking water, which is monitored to ensure these levels remain at or below the acceptable limits.
We are often asked if eating meat or dairy from animals that have eaten Asparagopsis daily will increase a person’s exposure to bromoform. After over a decade of studies about Asparagopsis as a feed additive in ruminants for animal production, no clear difference in bromoform content has been observed in meat or milk from test animals compared to control animals. This, of course, makes sense when we provide products that have just enough of the actives to inhibit the methane producing enzymes so it’s “all used up”. Consuming meat or dairy products from livestock that have consumed our Asparagopsis-based feed additives will not introduce additional bromoform into your diet.
The other potential means of exposure to the bromoform in Asparagopsis is through the respiratory system. Our products are delivered in a form that prevents dust and thus minimizes exposure to bromoform through inhalation.
SAFE FOR ANIMALS AND PEOPLE, GOOD FOR OUR FUTURE
In our products, all components of Asparagopsis are included within recommended safe levels as clearly marked on our product labels. As new scientific studies are published, leading to updated government risk assessments, we will update our product safety guidelines accordingly. Meanwhile, with its powerful methane-reducing properties, Asparagopsis can play a key role in helping us bend the climate curve to benefit all life on Earth.
* The 150 billion cattle in the world emit at least 231 billion pounds of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere each year. While estimates vary on how much methane a single cow produces annually, a single cow will belch about 220 pounds of methane each year.
Assuming an average of 220 pounds (which is about 100 kg), a conservative 70% reduction equates to eliminating 70 kg CH4 for each cow per year.
Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a warming potential more than 28 times (GWP100) that of CO2 , we use a conversion factor of 28 for the calculation.
At GWP100, 70kg CH4 (conversion factor 28) =
(70 x 28) or 1,960kg CO2-e or 1.96 ton CO2-e per cow per year.
A 90 percent reduction would be (90 x 28) or 2,520 Kg CO2-e or 2.52 tons CO2-e per cow per year.
Let’s look at the car equivalent:
Car emissions range from 4 to 4.7 metric tons CO2 per year for GWP100.
If 150 million cows were fed our Asparagopsis-based feed additives, we would remove the equivalent of the emissions of 62-94.5 million fossil-fueled cars.
62 million cars at the low end [ (150 x 1.96)/4.7 = 62 million] or 94.5 million cars at the high end (assuming 90% methane reduction and 4 tons CO2 per car annually [(150 x 2.52)/4.0 = 94.5 million]
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