is a major contributor to climate change. Scientists believe that CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere will continue to increase, and one of the consequences may be that some of the grains humans rely on for food will be robbed of important nutrients.
reports on experiments done by SoyFACE
(Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment) out of University of Illinois that measure what consequences increased CO2 in the atmosphere will have on crops.
SoyFACE was designed to discover the effects of atmospheric change on the agronomy and productivity of Midwestern crops as well as to find solutions that will lead to crops better adapted to this future.
One of the findings, according to NPR, is that we may have less nutritious grains in our future.
Currently, CO2 in the atmosphere is at 400 parts per million, and experiments are set up to see what happens when that raises to 500 ppm. The crops in the experiment are planted in fields that are in rings of carbon dioxide jets and simulate what the atmosphere is predicted to be like in 40 to 60 years.
Some of the results may seem encouraging. Crops grow more quickly in higher CO2 and grow 10 percent higher. But, scientists found “5 to 10 percent reductions in nutrients like iron, zinc and protein.” This could be harmful, particularly in developing countries where nutrients are already scarce.
Worldwide, about 2 billion people already are getting too little iron and zinc in their diets, and it's damaging their health. Zinc deficiency causes increased child mortality due to infectious diseases, because it prevents the immune system from working properly. Lack of iron increases the death rates of mothers and lowers the IQ of children.
What can be done if predictions come true? Scientists are working on creating new crop varieties and finding other solutions. Individuals will need to eat a wider variety of foods to get the missing nutrients, which isn’t always easy for those who can’t afford it.
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