Global Warming's Effect on Your Dinner Table

By Meghan Rabbitt

New research published in the journal Global Change Biology says that increased levels of greenhouse gases could decrease the nutritional values of several foods—including barley, wheat, soybeans, potatoes, and rice. According to Max Taub, associate professor of biology at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and lead author of the study, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means plants accumulate additional carbon in their tissues, which can reduce concentrations of nitrogen—a key component of proteins. “More carbon dioxide also reduces the amount of water plants take in, so other minerals that come from the soil, such as magnesium and calcium, are likely to be affected as well,” Taub says.

When crops are grown in areas with elevated CO2 levels, protein concentrations decrease by:

15% in barley
14% in potatoes
10% in wheat & rice