Global Warming lessens nutrients in crops

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Last Updated: May 8, 2014

Rising carbon dioxide concentrations due to climate change could cause crops to have lesser nutrients needed by the people, such as zinc and iron.

Most people believe that carbon dioxide build up due to hurricanes, floods, and severe weather caused by climate change can make plants grow better. This is not the case, according to researchers.

Researchers reported last Wednesday that even though wheat, rice, and corn may grow taller and faster due to the carbon dioxide build up; the crops may have less nutrients. This means, even though people will have more to eat, malnutrition will get worse, especially in poor regions of the world.

Harvard School of Public Health personnel Samuel Myers in the environmentalist journal Nature reported that the study they conducted addresses the question whether high carbon dioxide concentrations can threaten human nutrition or not. Carbon dioxide concentration has been constantly rising ever since the Industrial Revolution.

Myers, who is the leader of the study, concluded that climate change could ultimately alter the nutritional factor among crops and other plants. Without proper nutrients carried by the crops, zinc and iron deficiency issues may increase.

In the report, Myers stated that it is difficult to predict public health implications caused by global climate change. One of the surprises that they were able to find out is the lower level of nutrients in food crops due to carbon dioxide concentration. This is something people can prepare for, he said.

According to the United Nations, there is an estimated 2 to 3 billion people depending on these crops to get zinc and iron, and a lot of these people already have deficiencies. There are a lot of negative implications associated to iron and zinc deficiencies.

Iron deficiency anemia has a negative effect on the development of a child. It can lead to learning problems and fatigue. People who are iron and zinc deficient are more vulnerable to infections because their immune system primarily needs these nutrients.

Myers and his colleagues found out that higher levels of carbon dioxide has a negative effect on rice, corn, legumes, wheat, soybeans, and peas. According to their projection, most of these crops will lose a lot of their nutritional content, such as protein, zinc and iron, in 2050.

The positive side to this coin is that there are alternative crops that can be grown that could greatly benefit from the high carbon dioxide concentration.

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