Rice to become less nutritious as Carbon dioxide levels rise

Rice Could Lose Its Nutritional Value Due to Rising CO2 Levels

They led humans from hunting and gathering to city-building.

The experiments were conducted by Japan's National Agriculture and Food Research Organization. According to the study a large part of the changes observed has to do with how higher Carbon dioxide affects the plant's structure and growth, increasing carbohydrate content and reducing protein and minerals.

Rice could lose its nutritional value due to rising Carbon dioxide levels in the climate. The greatest impact and risk of such a result, say the authors, will be to countries consuming the most rice with the lowest GDP. "Obviously, that means any decline in nutritional value is very significant". For each variety, they set aside one rice paddy as a control, and one neighboring enclosed rice paddy with tubing running through the field.

Researchers also observed declines in iron, zinc, and protein. Iron content fell by an average of 8 percent and dropped by as much as 20 percent. 7 percent. B9 levels (folate) saw the largest drop, declining by 30.3 percent.

"Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries", said Professor Kazuhiko Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo, co-author of the recent study and expert in effects of air pollution on agriculture. "In the paper, we looked at the most rice-dependent countries in Asia". Folate is particularly crucial for maternal and child health. The nutrient is critical to fetus development, and a lack of vitamin B9 can result in defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord at birth.

Rice grown at higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, like those possible later this century, has lower nutritional value, according to a study that evaluated rice grown in Japan and China under simulated carbon dioxide increases.

"Overall, these results indicate that the role of rising Carbon dioxide on reducing rice quality may represent a fundamental, but under-appreciated, human health effect associated with anthropogenic climate change". Plants thrive thanks to carbon dioxide, as they use it for photosynthesis and then produce oxygen. The level of nutrition in plants can also affect many other living things, even bees, pandas and koalas, who live on plants - the only nutrition they get. "They're basically getting a dilution effect of the nutrients in the grains", she says. There has already been concern about the impact of higher levels of carbon dioxide on protein in potatoes, maize and other cereals. They did this work in Japan and China to observe the effects of anticipated end-of-century Carbon dioxide concentrations on 18 varieties of rice. That knowledge gives researchers an opportunity, given enough funding, to breed climate change-resistant strains of rice.

"For those people, this is not very good news". "I think culturally it is hard".

Here's another reason to take climate change seriously.

Angus Chen is a journalist in NY.

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