Climate Change and the Quality of Food


There have been many changes in recent years as to how our food is produced. Pesticides, GMOs, and processed foods have caused many people to question the quality of the food we eat. An increase in obesity, diabetes, and cancers point to the fact that something is severely wrong with how we are treating our bodies. A rise in interest in organic foods has led many to reevaluate what they serve their families. Daily nutritional needs are hard to meet in today’s fast food culture, as well.

As if there were not enough inhibitors to good health, now climate change is possibly threatening the benefits of crops. The value of some foods is thought to be compromised due to the current shifts in the environment.

Carbon Dioxide 

Carbon dioxide has been increasing in the atmosphere for several decades. The issue of global warming is an ongoing concern. Some are severely against the claims of global warming, inhibiting many improvement efforts. Those that are leading the fight against climate change often seem to be fighting a losing battle. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It holds heat in the atmosphere. These changes affect how and where crops grow. This is due to the excessive heat in some areas, as well as rainfall variations. New information indicates that some recently grown plants are lacking in their potential nutritional value.

The Experiment

Scientists began by finding out how carbon dioxide affects edible crops. They focused on a handful of crops. These included rice, wheat, field peas, soybeans, and sorghum. The plants were exposed to varying levels of carbon dioxide. Some were given between 363- 386 parts per million. This reflected the average amount that existed in the atmosphere at the time. Other plants were exposed to higher amounts as they continued to grow. These increased levels were between 546- 586 parts per million. This was done to mimic the advancing levels of carbon dioxide in the environment. This severe increase is thought to be possible within the next 50 years or so.

Vitamins and Minerals 

The scientists then studied the levels of vitamins and minerals present in the plants after the different levels of exposure to carbon dioxide. The health benefits of the crops severely declined. Wheat and rice are staple foods all over the world. These were affected greatly. They showed lower levels of protein, zinc, and iron. The peas and soybeans suffered the same fate. This decline in nutrition is concerning due to the fact that most people do not consume enough of the necessary nutrients, as it is. Zinc and iron are mostly received through rice and wheat in cereal type products. This means that people may have to look elsewhere to meet their nutritional requirements. An increase in illness is thought to be a possible side effect of this change.

Solutions

Scientists are still trying to figure out why the exposure to carbon dioxide does this to crops. This knowledge could help them modify the crops to make them more resilient to the greenhouse gas. Future experiments are planned with the breeding of different varieties of plants. The goal is to make optimal nutrition from plants a reliable resource. Once researchers understand better why the changes take place, they can pinpoint what needs to be changed in the makeup of the plant. Many plants have natural defense mechanisms to help them ward off pests. Scientists want to make them resilient to this form of pollution, as well. Of course, increased efforts to slow down the deterioration of our atmosphere is a still a top priority.

Carbon dioxide has affected the environment and the health of humans in many ways. Wildlife is also suffering from major changes in climate in rainfall patterns. Modern life has already changed the way we eat and exercise. This decline in plant health has scientists concerned about how humans around the world eat and receive nutrition. An increase in nutrient deficient illnesses may easily occur as the carbon dioxide levels increase. The next 50 years are predicted to bring a large increase in the amounts of carbon dioxide that invade our atmosphere. Efforts to improve plant resilience are being considered in cooperation with environmental relief efforts.


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