Rice to become less nutritious as Carbon dioxide levels rise

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 26, 2018

As carbon dioxide levels rise worldwide due to industrialization and other factors, scientists are concerned that a decrease in rice's nutritional value could lead to more malnutrition. For people who depend heavily on rice as a staple in their diets, such a nutritional loss would be devastating, says Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington and an author on the study.

This finding is not based on computer simulation of a plant's response to notionally higher atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas CO2, nor on laboratory studies under glass and in artificial conditions. They blew carbon dioxide out of the tubing, raising the ambient carbon dioxide inside the enclosure to some 580 parts per million, the expected carbon dioxide concentration in the next half century if there are no further attempt to curb emissions or deforestation.

"I haven't seen anything about the vitamins, that was new in this paper", Rice said, "but there's other reports that show, or ate least model and have done some lab estimates, that anywhere from 2 to 10 percent less protein content for grains under [an] elevated Carbon dioxide environment". In a new study released Wednesday, they reported a concern for the health of the billions of people who depend on the crop as their main source of food. The greatest impact and risk of such a result, say the authors, will be to countries consuming the most rice with the lowest GDP. This was also true in Japan during the 1960s, but current Japanese receive only about 20 percent of their daily food energy from rice.

They found on average that the test rice had 10% less protein, 8% less iron and 5.1% less zinc compared with rice grown by farmers under existing conditions.

The findings revealed that Vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels decreased by 17.1%; average Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) by 16.6%; average Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) by 12.7%; and average Vitamin B9 (folate) by 30.3%.

"Some varieties showed a very large decline, some varieties much less a drop of vitamin contents".

Rice grown in an environment with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide has fewer nutrients, according to research started by the University of Tokyo. 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.

For the study, researchers looked how carbon dioxide affects the above nutrients.

The scientists suggest that either breeding or genetically engineering new strains could be a way to lessen the nutritional impact of climate change.

"But there's also the negative effects of climate change in terms of more frequent drought [and] higher temperatures, which can tend to negate the positive benefit of extra carbon dioxide from a photosynthetic perspective."

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