Major Crops Are Losing Nutritional Value As CO2 Levels Increase In A Warming World

Fires in California. Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images

Increased atmospheric CO2 will significantly reduce the nutritional value of the world’s major crops, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health.

The study of wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, soybeans and field peas found that by around 2050 these crops will have significantly reduced concentrations of nutrients including zinc and iron

An estimated two billion people already suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies.

“This study is the first to resolve the question of whether rising CO2 concentrations, which have been increasing steadily since the Industrial Revolution, threaten human nutrition,” says research scientist Samuel Myers.

The researchers were surprised to find that zinc and iron varied substantially across different rices. That finding suggests that there could be an opportunity to breed reduced sensitivity to the effect of elevated CO2 into crops in the future.

“Humanity is conducting a global experiment by rapidly altering the environmental conditions on the only habitable planet we know,” Myers says.

“As this experiment unfolds, there will undoubtedly be many surprises. Finding out that rising CO2 threatens human nutrition is one such surprise.”

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