Everyone here commenting about the great news about how yields have increased is totally wrong. Droughts, prolonged heat waves, and flooding will wipe out whatever small percentage in yields from higher atmospheric CO2 have/will result. Not to mention the health effects: people that are paradoxically at the same time obese and malnourished.
I don't see the paradox? "Energy" and "nutrients" both are in food but they are not the same (okay, unless somebody wants to start arguing about word definitions in which case I refer them here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7X2j8HAkWdmMoS8PE/disputing-... -- you guys know exactly what I mean). If your body wants (certain) nutrients but they are always accompanied by way too much energy that ends up being stored as fat than you end up hungry as well as fat. No paradox.
Also using "energy" and "nutrients" like I just did: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs176
Many discussions about obesity are accompanied by comments "they just need to eat less because calories in > calories out - it's just physics" ignore that energy is just one of many aspects of why we eat.
GMOs also have an issue of exposing the once very inert system to black swan events, health or environmental issues.
Similar thing happened with pesticides. Before GMOs can be used we should at least test them rigorously for a couple of generations. But yeah, that stuff did not happen with pesticides, cars or anything else that now has huge externalities.
GMOs would be used here to limit the amount of energy derived (carbohydrate) with regards to nutrient density.
Also, for what it's worth, part of the plant biomass used to feed livestock is inedible by humans (think cellulose).
The only reason GMOs would exist for humans would be to improve the yields of most popular plants which are obviously not raised for nutrition but for taste. Almost every other plant in the world is produced in such minuscule amounts compared to soybean, wheat, maize and rice that there's no need for GMO.
Governments and non profits are free to make GMOs that are available to all without IP issues, too, as has been done with golden rice.
I'm no expert on the issue, but from what I'm aware this is not true.
At least in the EU it seems there's now largely a consensus that non-GMO plants can't be patented:
There are still other IP rights that can apply to plants, but patents are a very different beast.
From the US Patent Office:
As just one example, the University of Minnesota got $6M in payments for their patent on HoneyCrisp apples before the patent expired:
underneath "The essence of the Sublicensing Agreement"
E.g. the increased CO2 may be causing the bulk of the plant to grow bigger while the overall production of nutrients remains stable (nitrogen-limited ?) resulting in a lower concentration.
Adapting fertilisers might improve this. Or not.
I'm curious if you support the solution of allowing human population to decrease by encouraging fewer children.
Context starts here: https://twitter.com/davidorlo/status/1018616684603691013 (it's what the 1st tweet links to)
The gist is that in the co2 studies, fertilizer etc to plants are not increased. Analogous to keeping human food constant even if a body is growing faster.
She says this makes sense for the experiments: it lets us isolate effects of components on plants. But in real life farmers add more fertilizer if plants grow faster.
This appears to directly address the linked study and warrants consideration and a reply.
She doesn't seem to be taking into account the situations in the poorest parts of the world, where this is not being done -- and where rice is a far more important staple than in the US. She says, "Folks who are getting all their nutrients from plants generally eat at least some concentrated forms of plants, especially concentrated plant proteins: tempeh, seitan, nut milks & butters, etc." Um, I was literally talking on Thursday with a woman who was describing her childhood and the comfort she takes in a big warm bowl of rice, which was a majority of her meals growing up because she could cook it in the rice cooker without her parents' help while they were at work. My spouse also grew up eating big bowls of plain rice, although he did get to put soy sauce/ketchup/sriracha on top. They sure as (&^ were not eating seitan and tempeh on top. I can walk down to the Whole Foods 10 blocks away and buy some, uh, spirulina and salmon and whatever the cool kids are eating these days... chia? or is that passe? but that's not the situation for subsistence farmers or the vast swathes of people in cities living on the above-referenced bowls of imported rice. And these vast swathes of people often don't have great healthcare access, either, and so are more vulnerable to some of the cascading problems that result.
Last, I don't know how much she knows about nutrition. I'm glad she pays attention to iron content in the tweet series... but that's not the sum of micronutrients. The roles of vitamin D, chromium, biotin, and thiamine in development of type 2 diabetes are discussed here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3313629/ Micronutrient deficiency and obesity has been in the nutrition literature since at least 2009 at this point. I could link you to 10 more peer-reviewed articles but they're all behind a paywall :( Here at least is an editorial from 2010 with some review of articles recent at the time, and in particular some remarks about micronutrients and "clinically relevant weight loss" in Asians and perhaps others.
Anyhow, thanks for defending the tweet thread :) It was interesting!
Also, I just found out you get about 8-9x the nutrients from cooked veg vs raw.
Rice is very water intensive, and droughts are likely going to be a much bigger problem for rice crops before prolonged heat waves become normal.
Is the closest thing to a real source I could find at short notice. I found this surprising as well, I guess it merits some more casual research!
Yes. That is one of the big reasons why it is difficult to grow crops in desert regions even with irrigation.
Thermal properties of chemical reactions. There is a very narrow range of temperatures at which the chemical reactions needed for plant life and growth can occur. The space of possible chemical reactions are limited by the availability and distributions of various elements and molecules in the environment that the plant has available, so there is not going to be a magic evolution or breeding of heat-tolerant crops that will violate these chemical constraints.
> Wouldn’t this mean greenhouses are BAD for plants?
Greenhouses are not "tropical desert hot houses." They are used to boost temperature in cold climates for the specific crops that are grown. Tomatoes like 25 degrees Celsius, but, for example, lettuce will not grow if it is above 21 degrees Celsius.
Rice is a food that is shelf-stable, cheap, and (when enriched) provides a bare minimum of nutrition. Reducing the already-bare-minimum nutritional level, or increasing the heavy metals already found in many varieties, will have a significant effect on already vulnerable populations.
In anything approaching a free market, it is hard to imagine that lower production costs won't reduce the price of a heavily-traded commodity with millions of producers.
In a communist system of collective farms, or a fascist system of government-mandated prices with monopolistic distribution networks, it is anyone's guess what political decisions will be made. Such systems regularly produce politically-motivated famines, so slightly lower nutrient levels will be the least of their worries.
Only the US (and its sphere of influence) has the opposite problem, because people there insist on drinking fizzy sugar water. It's not even that the maize the sugar is made from is low in micronutrients, it's that those aren't used to manufacture HFCS.
Or produce extracts.
What part did you think was “bunk”?
It seems fairly predictable/uncontroversial that substantially changing the composition of the air plants are grown in would affect their growth. These studies are part of an effort to figure out precisely what changes result from expected current/near-future changes in the atmosphere and what potential impact those changes might have on the global food supply and health.
It is important to know about these effects so that we can try to mitigate the harms involved, e.g. by switching to new crops or crop strains, adopting alternative agricultural methods, supplementing at-risk diets with other foods, etc., instead of just letting millions of people suffer dangerous nutrient deficiencies.
It's also worth noting that the paper doesn't really try to prove that nutrition levels will drop, but instead concentrates on showing that if nutrition levels in rice drop that more people may experience deficiencies. In particular, it cites a paper that actually did the experiment, and found no decrease in nutrients other than Nitrogen: http://sci-hub.tw/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2004.01.004. This experiment implies that it's at least possible to grow rice under high CO2 levels without experiencing the drop.
I also thought the mitigation section was odd. It points out that only a few countries currently fortify rice with Vitamin B. It notes that fortification is inexpensive and effective, although it would require a major effort to begin doing so in other countries. The paper also shows that nutrient deficiency is already a large problem, and that increase caused by a decrease in foliate levels in rice would only be 1.5%. Maybe a better conclusion would be that these countries should really be fortifying their rice?
I didn't think it was a bad paper, and it wasn't "bunk". I agree that knowing what sort of changes to expect from an increased CO2 level is a good thing. But it did seem like it might be pushing an agenda more than just trying to lay out the scientific conclusions.
> From other articles I found, it looks like the yield is expected to increase by about 13%. Omitting any mention of this feels like a political decision.
That is because CO2 enrichment as a way to increase yields is decades old common knowledge and a widespread practice in greenhouses. Just because you did not know that, does not mean there is a conspiracy here.
> It's also worth noting that the paper doesn't really try to prove that nutrition levels will drop
Because nutrient density decrease is something that has already happened: https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrie...
By the way, I liked your comment elsewhere in this thread about eating plain rice. But rather than lamenting that all the references are behind paywalls, I personally think it's better just to give the DOI's and a link to http://sci-hub.tw. Or even better yet, just link to the papers, profits of publishers be damned. The world is better off when more people read the actual science.
This one goes in along with "SCIENTISTS CURE CANCER" in which you get potentially interesting findings that get blown horribly out of proportion by whatever rag that decides to post it, often with a political spin to boot.
The bunk bit is micronutrient deficiency is only amongst the real poor, less than $2 per day.
Not the rich (US/Europe) or middle class or US/European poor.
And it's happening TODAY, they way forward to the problem, which ALREADY exists is to fix it by getting a variety of foods to the real poor.
Rice alone is always not enough, this is a today issue.
A - Stop pushing today's issues until 2050 to push CO2 agendas.
B - The real poor need cheap energy today, they die without it. It's not just a discussion point by the ultra rich on a Bulletin Board.
C - Other plants with the required micronutrients will become cheaper/increased yields with the increased CO2. So stop making up possible issues when it's a today issues.
Fossil fuels need to stop being used altogether, and as quickly as possible. This means that it’s up to the wealthy nations who currently use the most CO2 per capita (https://www-cdn.oxfam.org/s3fs-public/file_attachments/mb-ex...) to drastically reduce their share.
And guess what happens if the price of fossil fuels doesn’t match the ecological impact and their use is not drastically scaled down?
It’s precisely the poorest of the world who will suffer the greatest consequences of global warming.
(BTW those scenarios are now extremely optimistic based on leaked drafts of the upcoming IPCC report)
But people should understand that this degree of mobilization is mostly necessary because we insist on subjecting ourselves to a capitalist mode of production based on endless growth.
A much easier alternative is simply to shutdown large parts of the economy and transition the lost jobs into land conservation/stewardship and geoengineering, while providing a basic income for everyone else working only a couple of days per week. (See Degrowth.) No, this will not create “profit”. Yes, this will require a mass redistribution of wealth. The sooner people acknowledge that The Party is Over, the sooner they can move on to real solutions.
Let me ask you something: of the warming that is occurring now, what percentage is due to humans and what percentage is due to natural fluxes in climate?
If we were to disappear off the face of the planet tomorrow, what would happen to the climate? Would it cool or would it warm?
The truth is generally: humans have contributed to most of the warming since the beginning of the industrial revolution considering the near-doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere and that climate sensitivity is between 3.5 and 5.5°C. (https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019...)
If humans disappeared tomorrow, three things would happen:
1. The surface of the planet would immediately warm by at least 1°C due to the lack of pollution-sourced atmospheric aerosols (such as sulfur) from planes, ships, coal plants, etc.
2. The temperature would decline, but do so very very slowly due to CO2 remaining in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. (https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/10/SPM1...) This is why some sort of long term geoengineering involving carbon removal will probably be necessary even after halting all emissions.
3. Wild plant and animal populations would immediately begin to recover as their native habitats re-grew.
And yes, I agree: Capitalism is the best system for destroying our natural environmental as efficiently as possible — what some would call “the externalized costs of economic growth”. This system has clearly proven itself unworkable. Sure, maybe with enough regulation we could have equilibrated capitalism within the bounds of our ecosystem, but those changes would have needed to been made decades ago. Now, no more time remains even for reform.