Thursday, May 19, 2022

Methane inhibitors face grind through system

Progress on getting regulations in place to allow the use of methane inhibitors on New Zealand farms remains painstakingly slow as products become available for commercial use in other countries, including Chile and Brazil.

Late last year Farmers Weekly revealed the current Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) regulations required an overhaul to enable farmers to have the approval of meat and dairy processors before using inhibitors.

The most high-profile inhibitor to date is Bovaer, produced by Dutch company DSM and now approved for use in South American countries.

European dairy co-operative Arla Foods and DSM are also set to start a large-scale on-farm pilot trial with Bovaer on 10,000 dairy cows across three European countries.

The regulation of inhibitors has been on officials’ desks for over two years now, with a discussion paper tabled in February 2020 and prospects are it could be at least another two years before fully registered products are sold here.

Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium head Mark Aspin acknowledged the work done  by MPI staff to date, but said the process had appeared to have grown more complicated.

Initially an “order in council” had been sought to enable inhibitors to be absorbed into the regulations.

“But it has been signalled that the ACVM Act will need to be updated to include inhibitors. This requires efficacy guidelines and it is not as straightforward,” Aspin said.

MPI confirmed it was working to establish methane inhibitors to be covered under the ACVM regulations via an order in council.

This would give the inhibitors a two-year window to obtain registration, after which time they can only be marketed with formal registration.

But full registration would require submitting data on the product’s efficacy.

Aspin said any inhibitor offered to livestock in NZ would likely be as a supplement, and unless it could stay active in the rumen for 24 hours it was unlikely to deliver the 30% reduction achieved in overseas feedlot systems.

“We need to know what the efficacy claims are, to make it count in the national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. They require you to show the impact of the activity. For example, we know putting ewes on brassica rape for six weeks results in a 2% reduction in their total year’s emissions, small but important,” he said.

Julia McNab, director of regulatory consultants Intuit, said a call has been put out for experts to help draft efficacy guidelines on inhibitors.

“That is basically determining what data do you, as a manufacturer, need to provide to ACVM to get approval for its use. That is an important part and farmers need to know a product is going to do what it says on the label, and researchers need to know what the data requirements are to generate that data in field studies,” McNab said.

She said none of these requirements can be achieved quickly and at least a season’s trial data would be required on products used in a NZ pastoral context.

Realistically, however, she suspected it could be two to four years before full commercial sales were in place for fully validated products.

Approval overseas has so far only been granted to farmers using the product in a total mixed ration (TMR) feedlot type system. Reductions in emissions of up to 30% have been reported.

Urgency to determine their effectiveness and place in NZ farm systems is ramping up as NZ farmers are required to double down on their efforts to reduce methane emissions within the He Waka Eke Noa framework.

McNab said technically an inhibitor could be sold now, but it was unlikely processors would be happy to endorse their use by farmers until solid data sat behind any label claims and safety was demonstrated.

Despite the delays, Aspin doubted any products were being stalled right now from release.

“But from an industry point of view we really want to understand what is required,” he said.

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