News / Science & Technology

    Study: Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Threaten Human Nutrition

    FILE - Workers collect red grapes in the vineyards near Bordeaux, France.
    FILE - Workers collect red grapes in the vineyards near Bordeaux, France.
    Jessica Berman
    Climate change is threatening human nutrition, according to experts, who say rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are robbing the global population of vital plant nutrients.

    That conclusion follows the release of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which predicts that extreme weather will disrupt agricultural production, and have negative consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally.

    The study says the damage will come not only through changes in crop yields, but also from changes in the ways climate affects food processing, storage, transportation and retailing.  

    Unless something is done, climate change will take significant amounts of dietary zinc and iron away by 2050 from food staples, including rice, wheat, corn, soy, field peas and sorghum. Scientists with the Harvard [University] School of Public Health make the prediction in a new study published in the journal Nature.

    An estimated 2 to 3 billion people receive 70 percent or more of those essential nutrients from wheat, rice and legumes, particularly in the developing world.

    Reductions in nutrients

    Samuel Myers, a researcher in Harvard’s Department of Environmental Health in Boston, said, “What our study is showing is that, unequivocally, as CO2 concentrations rise up to levels that we expect to see in the next 40 years, there are very significant reductions in nutrients that are really important for public health.”

    Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system, according to Myers, helping to fend off diarrheal diseases, pneumonia and measles, while deficiencies in iron cause anemia and decreased IQ in children. Mothers who are severely anemic are at increased risk of death.  

    Some 2 billion people worldwide suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually. Life years are a measurement of years that are lost due to disability and disease.

    For the study, the nutrient content of plants exposed to artificially elevated levels of carbon dioxide was compared to that of plants grown naturally in nearby fields.

    Limiting damage

    Data was analyzed from 41 cultivars, or specially bred varieties of grains and legumes, from seven different locations in Japan, Australia and the United States where the CO2 experiments were carried out.

    The results showed significant decreases in zinc and iron in wheat, rice and legumes at the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide. In some of the plants, researchers also noted decreases in protein stores.

    As a hedge against rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, Myers said it may be possible to grow varieties of food crops that are immune to the negative impacts of CO2.

    “For example, we looked at 18 rice cultivars and we found that some rice cultivars are much more sensitive to the CO2 effect than others," he said. "And that led us to speculate in our paper that conceivably, there may be an opportunity to try to develop cultivars of crops that are less sensitive to the CO2 effect.”

    Ultimately, Myers said the only way to counteract severe depletions in natural sources of zinc and iron is to hold carbon dioxide concentrations steady, while developing enriched grain crops or ones that are CO2 resistant.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: healthonut from: Fresno
    May 30, 2014 6:25 AM
    This is sooo old news. See this:

    Rising atmopsheric CO2 and human nutrition
    http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/abstract/S0169-5347(02)02587-9


    by: raydelcolle from: bristol
    May 10, 2014 4:57 AM
    "97 percent of top climate scientists and every major National Academy of Science agree that man-made carbon pollution is warming our climate." http://clmtr.lt/c/GV50cd0cMJ

    by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Shinagawa, TKO
    May 08, 2014 7:02 PM
    Global Eco system is very complex, and everything interacts each other, so it is easy to say climate change is threatening something.
    And it is easy to conclude bad results for human such as this article, because the reserchers are just calculating based on a lot of uncertain assumptions.

    There is no meaning for these researches.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.