Climate Change Will Make Rice Less Healthy in Years to Come: Report
About 2 billion people around the world rely on rice as their primary food.
As carbon dioxide levels rise, rice will become less nutritious, according to research published this week in the journal Science Advances.
Researchers studied the effects of increasing carbon dioxide levels on rice by testing 18 different kinds in China and Japan between 2010 and 2014.
Crops subject to higher levels of carbon dioxide were usually less nutritious, no matter where the rice was grown.
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The rice had about 10% less protein, 8% less iron, and 5% less zinc than rice grown in today’s concentrations of carbon dioxide, according to The Guardian.
Levels of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 also dropped — B9 levels actually dropped by more than 30%.
Rice becoming less nutritious could trigger some detrimental health effects around the world, as millions of people rely on rice for food.
The study’s authors warn a change like this could negatively impact early childhood development and exaggerate the effects of diseases like malaria.
"About 2 billion people rely on rice as a primary food source and among those that are the poorest, often the consumption of rice in terms of their daily calories is over 50%," Dr. Lewis Ziska, one of the authors of the research from the United States Department of Agriculture, told The Guardian. "Anything that impacts rice in terms of its nutritional quality is going to have an impact."
The greatest effects of this nutritional change would be seen in Bangladesh and Madagascar, according to The Guardian.
Still, some types of rice revealed little change in certain nutriments, so the study’s scientists believe it could be possible to find or develop rice that will keep its nutrition in spite of climate change.
Ziska emphasized the need to continue research on why carbon dioxide levels affect food’s nutritional value — and not just when it comes to rice.
"Many important cereals like wheat as well as staples like potatoes may be impacted by this as well," he told The Guardian.
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