The climate change is taking place. Whatever our position is on this, it is undeniable that the temperatures grow, the sea level rises and the rains acidify. That all of this it is the result of human act since industrial revolution and so on, today it is not an issue in this article. Instead, it is an objective data that the global industrial system has produced and produces emission of gases into the atmosphere, first of all the carbonic anhydride. Taking that as a starting point, Kristie Ebi, a woman researcher of the Center for Health and the Global Environment, studies and develops speeches at international level for helping people to face challenges put by the CO2 release in the atmosphere.
The enrichment of carbon coming from the use of fossil fuel has a number of effects in the atmosphere: the most well-known are the temperature increase for the greenhouse effect, the acid rain and the acceleration of the plants growth. But these last grow without their basic nourishment, such as vitamins, lowering their nutritional quality. Having as reference the food pyramid, every person need carbohydrate, protein and different micronutrients to grow healthly and feel good. Not to mention that we do not eat only for necessity but also for pleasure; the world is full of typical dishes which go over their fuction to serve as nutrient and which are landmarks for traditions, old stories and cultures. All of this put at risk by greenhouse gases leakage into the air. This process started during the industrial revolution, taking the number of carbonic anhydride particels from 280 parts per million to over 410 per million to nowadays. As we have just said, CO2 is necessary to plants which absorbes it and breaks it down into carbon, which is used for chlorophyll photosynthesis, while oxygen is expelled. So, if carbonic anhydride serves to plants as well as food serves to us, not should be a good news that the level of this gas rises into the atmosphere?
The food safety (SDG 2) is a marker which calculate how many people in the world can access to enough food to live; nowadays, there are around 820 million people who have not what they need to survive. The increased presence of CO2 in the air helps to produce more food. However, the climate change is bringing the agricultural productivity down, varing microclimates and tightening up meteorogical events as sudden heat waves, unexpected flood and long periods of drought. The carbonic anhydrate, together with making plants grow, has other consequences on their metabolism; it increases the synthesis of sugars and reduces the concentration of proteins, vitamins and minerals. More over, it makes cultures less nourishing and, with a view to improve the food security during the next years, this fact put an important interrogative: what will happen to those who today are at the minimun limit of food safety? Some negatively affected minerals by the big presence of carbon into plants are the iron, whose lack leads to anemia (toil, out of breath, chest pain, heart failure, growth retardation) and the zinc whose deficit leads to loss of appetite (which involves serious risks for pregnant women and infants), loss of smell, retardation in wound healing, human immunodeficiency and serious risks of growing. The B group vitamins are required for the regulation of the nervous system, because they turn food into energy and help to fight off infections. With more carbon into plants we have less nitrogen and less vitamins of group B. Also cows are affected by this problem, the fodder quality they eat is in decline taking this worsening in their derived products.
Several experiments have been performed either on site and in laboratories; an explanatory example of an experiment on site has been conducted building different rice basins identical for size, soil and rainfall. Everyone has been treated according to the same condition, except for some basins which have been continuously aired with carbonic anhydride. The reason is to be able to have a comparison between the energetic value of the current rice production and the future one with a major CO2 concentration in the air. The result has been that the content of proteins has dropped by 10%, the iron by 8%, the zinc by 5%. The most significant decrease has been at the B vitamins level: B1 and B2 has dropped by 17%, B5 by 13% and B9 by 30% (essential for babies develop and pregnant women to avoid giving birth to newborns with pathologies). If we had to have a map where the link between the CO2 increase and the decrease of iron and zinc has the major effects in terms of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and anemia, we could identify the areas of Africa, India, Japon and South East Asia. Not to mention that also North American and European populations could be indirectly damaged (for a total of about 125 million people).
The solution is easy: reducing the injection of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This could be possible crossing the commitment of governements to guide more sustainable politics with new technologies and methodologies of cultivation, such as hybridization between species, graft, bio-fortification and the use of smart land. Especially, now we need to invest on research to understand how facing future issues. An emblematic and so much discussed case is offered by the use of genetic modification techniques or OGM.
The genetic modification is not new, many products we daily consume are a genetic modification product, such as banana, eggplants, Brussels sprouts and mais. However, the product which suffered much more genetic modifications (because at the base of the major number of diets at global level) is the rice. More than half of the earth's population based its nourishment on rice. All this pressure put on a so much small grain, farmers have always used the most durable types of rice. For centuries nobody have never known these genes which make rice stronger, until 90's when they were identified and isolated. Then the resistance genes have been studied more, leading to the discovery of specific genes resistant to infection of certain bacteria and virus, flood and parasites. Adding these genes to a DNA of other varieties of rice has allowed to the most safety and abundant developing countries, which use less pesticide and insecticides, damaging for the environment and human health, to have plantations. But that is not all, every year aroung 500 thousand child in underdeveloped countries becomes blind because of the lack of A vitamin, while more than 250 thousands are destined to a premature death. However, thanks to a research funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, some genetic engineers have developed a rice variety called "Golden Rice" because of its golden color. Golden because they have added to it a gene which allows the formation of beta-carotene, th A vitamin forerunner, of a straw yellow color. This new rice variety with added nourishments is designed to save the lives of thousands of children.
This is only one case in which GMO can be applied to reduce the malnutrition. Otherwise, GMO are at the center of many controversies: there is who thinks there is no need to interfere with nature work, there is who sees the future in this technology. Just one thing is sure, that is the misinformation about plants genetic modification have some effects. These last mostly occur among poorer and weaker people, who has a major need to draw to this technology. Actually, the groups most at risk are denied to access to this resource with huge possibilities, because of sketchy fears and prejudice of whom have enough to eat. It is our task to relieve human suffering and safeguard the environment for future generations, regardless our opinion is about the climate change responsibilities.
Translated by Giorgia Melis