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Crop nutrition levels fall as carbon levels rise, study finds

An article by Julia Holman at ABC.net outlines how increasing carbon levels as a result of climate change are causing a decline in the nutritional value of food, with some staples even becoming toxic.

Plants trap carbon dioxide and turn it into sugars for energy, becoming more efficient with increased carbon dioxide, the study says. The problem is that some plants then put these increased energies into making defensive enzymes that are toxic when eaten.

This has become a specific concern in South America, Africa and parts of the Asia Pacific, where the main staple crop cassava is seeing big increases in cyanide content.

Not every crop is affected in the same way. And while wheat, which is Australia’s main staple, won’t see an increase in poisonous compounds, protein levels will decrease dramatically, another side effect.

Ros Gleadow, an associate professor at Monash University and President of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists, is also looking at the impact of increased carbon on crops.

She is noticing toxicity in crops consumed by humans, and also those consumed by animals, that then produce meat with lower nutritional value.

“This is really not a small issue: it’s actually quite a big issue, and we really need to start addressing it,” she says.

The outcomes of the upcoming ACT Crops & Food Supply session will include a roadmap of key climate change issues for agriculture in Canada, as well as identified opportunities for government responses that might enable and support resilience building and Canada’s position as an agricultural producer that can help the world.

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