According to a new study by researchers at Stanford University, rice yields could drop by about 40%, or almost half, by 2100. According to climate modelers, rice grown in regions with arsenic-endemic production will be drastically reduced due to climate change, threatening the stock and overall nutrition of large portions of the population, given that rice is still the world’s largest staple crop.
Such a reduction would have devastating and perhaps even unpredictable consequences for all those groups of the population who depend on it for their food more than on staple foods. Researchers believe that the main cause could be changed in soil due to temperature changes that would result in rice containing twice as much toxic arsenic as today’s rice.
Scott Fendorf, professor of Earth system science at the School of Earth Sciences, Energy and Environment at Ford, will have about 10 billion people on Earth by 2100, half of whom will be almost dependent on rice, the scenario for which we will need to prepare.
Rice is grown on flooded rice paddies, so that arsenic from the soil dissolves into more important components and is absorbed by the rice. This is why rice plants are considered particularly sensitive to arsenic uptake. These plants already contain a certain level of arsenic, but the amount is still considered safe.
However, future climate change will lead to higher temperatures, leading to higher arsenic levels being absorbed by rice plants. The same amount of water that will be used to irrigate rice crops will contain more arsenic, adding to the problem.
Chronic exposure to arsenic at these levels can lead to skin lesions, cancer, exacerbation of lung disease, and then death.
“I think the problem is also important for people with young children in our society,” says leading author of the book E. Marie Muehe, a former scientist from Stanford and now from the University of Tuebingen, Germany. “Because children are much younger than us if they eat rice, it means that they absorb more arsenic than body weight.”
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