ibusinesslines.com August 18, 2018

Climate change is robbing rice of its nutrition

26 May 2018, 03:38 | Justin Tyler

Global warming may have 'devastating' effects on rice: study

Rice Could Lose Its Nutritional Value Due to Rising CO2 Levels

The carbon dioxide humans pump into Earth's atmosphere is doing more damage to the global food system than once thought.

Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reduce the nutritional value of rice, according to an worldwide research team that analyzed rice samples from field experiments started by a University of Tokyo professor.

Researchers found that at high carbon dioxide concentrations, vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 in rice all declined. They collectively conducted a field study on about eighteen strains of the rice from the China and Japan. 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. The finding that rice's nutritional quality can suffer as atmospheric Carbon dioxide concentrations increase has notable implications for populations in regions that rely on rice for primary nutrition.

Rice is one of the world's most important cereal crops and the primary food source for more than two billion people worldwide. "And experiments show that as Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, critical nutrients will decline further, even as we harvest more beans, grains, and seeds", according to Vox. "When you look at a country like Bangladesh, three out of every four calories comes from rice".

"If we do nothing, then yes, there is this potential for profound negative impacts on human health", said Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the authors of the study, which also involved researchers at institutions in China, Japan, Australia and the United States, including at the US Agriculture Department. Folate or vitamin B9 levels were down 30%. "Using a weighting scheme focusing on those with the fewest resources, we estimate this decline in nutrient quality will affect about 600 million people".

Some varieties of rice may not experience as severe of a nutrient loss as carbon dioxide levels go up.

Ebi says that the rice grown under the elevated carbon scenario lost substantial amounts of protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins per grain. A paper highlighting this study marks its presence in the Science Advances.

But getting people to switch to new grains is not always easy, Ainsworth says. Wind sensors and gas detectors helped scientists ensure each plant was exposed to the correct amount of CO2. "I think culturally it is hard".

Indeed, the research fits an increasingly common theme in climate findings, which is that the poor and disadvantaged globally would be hit hardest by these kinds of changes, and would be least able to adjust or diversify their diets in order to pick up nutrients in other ways.

Angus Chen is a journalist in NY.

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