Scientists originally thought this was a result of breeding crops with higher yields, which was done to provide more food for a growing worldwide population.
A 2004 study of 43 food crops showed declines in six nutrients over the past 50 years, ranging from 7 percent less protein to 38 percent less riboflavin. “Declines are generally most easily explained by changes in cultivated varieties,” U.S. scientists concluded at the time. “There may be trade-offs between yield and nutrient content.” (NIH)
Scientists are now having second thoughts, and their revised conclusions are frightening. People may disagree about the reality or causes of global climate change, but all sides agree that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is increasing.
And studies increasingly indicate that increased CO2 levels are having a dramatic effect on the quality of the plants we eat.
What’s that, you say? Shouldn’t more CO2 help plant growth, since plants use carbon dioxide like animals use oxygen? Yes, CO2 enrichment can increase crop yield. But crop quality is another matter.
U.S. scientists studied soybean plants grown under various concentrations of carbon dioxide. They used an Agilent gas chromatograph to measure soluble carbohydrates and organic acids.
Elevated CO2 altered the concentrations of 28 out of 38 seed components. Five components showed increasing trends, including carbon, iron, manganese, glycerate and oil. However, 23 components showed decreasing trends, including sucrose, glucose, citrate, aconitate, several minerals and amino acids.
Politico notes that overall, the ratio of carbohydrates to minerals is going up. Plants are in danger of “becoming junk food.”
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