Rise In CO2 Level Declines Quality Of Important Food Crop

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"Rice is not just a major source of calories, but also proteins and vitamins for many people in developing countries and for poorer communities within developed countries", said Professor Kazuhiko Kobayashi of the University of Tokyo, co-author of the recent study and expert in effects of air pollution on agriculture.

Rice, the scientists found, contains lower levels of key vitamins when grown amid high concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most common of the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

It was observed that on average, protein content fell 10.3%, iron dropped eight percent, while the zinc content was reduced by 5.1%, compared to rice grown today under current Carbon dioxide conditions. It is based on open air field trials.

Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases, so its emissions have a great impact on the environment.

The new study evaluated 18 types of commonly grown rice to see impact of the levels of carbon dioxide.

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Ten nations depend upon rice for daily food supplies.

Researchers are warning the nutritional changes could have significant health implications - especially in poorer countries.

Researchers concluded that over 600 million of people are at risk if the quality of a primary food is decreased.

Rice within the octagon in this field is part of an experiment started by a University of Tokyo professor and created to grow rice under different atmospheric conditions. Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid levels, were down more than 12%. "Folate [vitamin B9] declines across the nine rice varieties ranged from 10 percent to 45 percent". As a result, many plants that contained them significantly reduced their nutritional value.

"There's been studies over the past hundred years for the importance of these B vitamins", Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the authors of the study. Aside from energy-rich carbohydrates, grains feed us protein, zinc, iron and essential B vitamins.

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

As global temperatures rise in response to ever greater levels of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, harvests of all the staple cereals could in any case decline - sometimes as a response to ever wilder extremes of heat, rain and windstorm - by between 20 and 40%.

The scientists suggest that either breeding or genetically engineering new strains could be a way to lessen the nutritional impact of climate change.

Not all rice varieties saw the same drops in nutritional value, raising hope that future research could help farmers develop strains of rice that would be more resilient to atmospheric changes.

The consequences for wheat are tied to rising temperatures, but with rice, the immediate issue appears to be the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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