Increased atmospheric CO2 impacts nutritional value of rice and other crops

Evidence is mounting from scientific research that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere negatively affects the nutritional value of a range of staple food crops.

A recent multinational study published in Science Advances found that carbon dioxide levels this century will alter the protein, micronutrients, and vitamin content of rice grains with potential health consequences for the poorest rice-dependent countries.

The study used multiyear, multilocation in situ (free-air CO2 enrichment experiments for 18 genetically diverse rice lines, including Japonica, Indica, and hybrids currently grown throughout Asia.

The results confirmed declines in protein, iron, and zinc found in earlier studies of a range of crops, and also found consistent declines in vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 although there was increase in vitamin E under higher CO2 regimes.

Potential health risks associated with anticipated CO2-induced deficits of protein, minerals, and vitamins in rice were correlated to the lowest overall gross domestic product per capita for the highest rice-consuming countries, suggesting potential consequences for a global population of approximately 600 million.

The study is available here

Photo: Rice within the octagon in this field is part of an experiment to grow rice under different levels of carbon dioxide.Toshihiro Hasegawa, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization of Japan

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