* DSM has developed food additive that reduces cows' methane emissions
* Sees strong demand for the product as environmental pressure on farmers builds
* Expects to launch product in Europe end 2020 or early 2021
AMSTERDAM, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Dutch specialty chemicals company DSM is expecting strong demand for its food additive which limits the amount of methane burped into the air by cows, its contribution to the global fight against climate change.
Methane has a much larger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2) and reducing methane emissions could buy time to confront the much bigger challenge of cutting the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
"We see a lot of demand already, from food producers and farmers", DSM's Clean Cow program director Mark van Nieuwland told Reuters in an interview, even though the launch of the additive, Bovaer, is still more than a year away.
"Large (food) companies have clear climate targets, and they need farms to change to meet those. Also consumers are increasing pressure on farmers and many farmers themselves want to limit emissions."
Swiss KitKat and Nescafe maker Nestle this month said it wanted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, while French dairy maker Danone has said it wants to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030.
Cows constantly burp up the powerful greenhouse gas methane but DSM says including Bovaer in a cow's diet could cut these emissions by at least 30%.
"Giving this to only three cows will have the same effect as taking one car off the road", Van Nieuwland said.
DSM expects to launch Bovaer in Europe either late next year or in early 2021. It is currently waiting for authorisation from the European Union to label it as an environmentally beneficial product.
The company estimates that Bovaer has a potential global market value of 1 to 2 billion euros and aims to expand into other markets soon after the European launch.
DSM has made a profitable switch from bulk chemicals to sustainable food ingredients and materials, growing sales of animal food products to around 30% of its 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) in total sales last year.
"We have to deal with methane in the next 5 to 10 years if we want to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees", Van Nieuwland said.
Bovaer cuts methane emissions when mixed into a cow's feed by inhibiting an enzyme in the digestion process which normally causes the release of the gas.
After ten years of research the Dutch company says it has dozens of global peer reviewed studies backing its claims, and showing no effect on the health of cows or the milk they deliver.
"This can have a real impact and we want to make it as big as possible", Van Nieuwland said. "The faster we move, the better."
($1 = 0.9158 euros) (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)