Ruh-roh… This deeply disturbing report on how climate change fuels a decline in nutrition in our food, from Politico:
IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, it’s been understood for some time that many of our most important foods have been getting less nutritious. Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over the past 50 to 70 years. Researchers have generally assumed the reason is fairly straightforward: We’ve been breeding and choosing crops for higher yields, rather than nutrition, and higher-yielding crops—whether broccoli, tomatoes, or wheat—tend to be less nutrient-packed.
See, here’s the thing about rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere: plants LOVE carbon dioxide! They use it, along with water and sunlight, to manufacture cellulose and sugars and, well, the anchor cables of the web of life that feeds the entire planet (and produces good ol’ O2, that’s “oxygen” to you, as a by-product). In fact, many climate change deniers have tried to spin rising CO2 levels as a boon to agriculture:
“A higher concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would aid photosynthesis, which in turn contributes to increased plant growth,” [Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science,] wrote. “This correlates to a greater volume of food production and better quality food.”
Well, yes and no. Turns out plants react to too much food the same way rats and people do: they overeat. Rising CO2 gives plants a greater ability to produce carbohydrates, including glucose (yum!) — instead of micronutrients like zinc and iron needed to stay healthy. And when our crops don’t store those micronutrients, animals and people who EAT those crops don’t get them either.
That’s bad news.
Here’s the really big story, though: could an increase in the available carbohydrates in our food crops be (partially) responsible for the global obesity epidemic?
…Marion Nestle, a nutrition policy professor at New York University who’s one of the best-known nutrition experts in the country, initially expressed skepticism about the whole concept but offered to dig into a file she keeps on climate issues.
After reviewing the evidence, she changed her tune. “I’m convinced,” she said, in an email, while also urging caution: It wasn’t clear whether CO2-driven nutrient depletion would have a meaningful impact on public health. We need to know a whole lot more, she said.
Yikes, this is a freaking nightmare. Please take a look at the full story, The Great Nutrient Collapse, share it widely, and make sure you’re using LED light bulbs in your house. (Every little bit helps!)