Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

CO2 lowers rice quality, study says

CO2 lowers rice quality, study says

The researchers chose to examine the effect of heightened Carbon dioxide levels on rice because of the fact that more than two billion people worldwide depend on it as a primary food.

In the new study, scientists exposed rice to higher Carbon dioxide concentrations and found an average of 10.3% drop in protein, 8% drop in iron, 5.1% drop in iron, 12.7% drop in B5 vitamin levels and a 30% drop in B9 vitamin levels among all tested varieties. It reinforces the inference of the earlier studies that the expected rise in the carbon dioxide level by 2100 has shown a considerable decrease in the amount of zinc, protein and the iron contents of the rice grains.

Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who leads the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, argued that more carbon dioxide will tends to increased plant growth, spurring "a greater volume of food production and better quality food".

For the study, researchers looked how carbon dioxide affects the above nutrients. "But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethnopharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies - in ways we don't yet understand", said Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the US Department of Agriculture research service, one of the authors. But seed will loss the quality.

Because of this, Ebi and Ziska said, rice could in fact already be losing some of its nutritional content under current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations - but the research has not been done at this point to confirm that. The researchers also found that certain B vitamins declined significantly, some by up to 30 percent.

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Director of the ARC's Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, Professor Bob Furbank, said in theory higher Carbon dioxide levels were a good thing for growth - but the reality proved somewhat different. And there are myriad other climate-related factors, such as rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns-all spurred by greenhouse gas emissions-that may harm agriculture, as well.

Six hundred million people primarily in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Madagascar consume at least 50 percent of their daily energy and/or protein directly from rice.

The new study took a more economic approach. And it has been tested in many locations in rice-growing countries over many years.

The change could be particularly dire in southeast Asia where rice is a major part of the daily diet, said the report in the journal Science Advances.

Myers cautioned that a more detailed modeling study-which examines exactly how much of each nutrient a person derives from rice, as opposed to other food sources-would be needed to fully evaluate the public health concerns raised by the new research. "And that's important if we want to move from understanding the problem to solving it".

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